Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt Home Guide

A ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt is a long, flexible, plastic tube that drains water (cerebrospinal fluid) from the brain. This is done so that pressure does not build up within the head. The tube goes from the brain to the abdomen. You may feel the tube behind the ear and under the skin as it passes down the neck, chest, and into the belly. After a VP shunt is placed, it is important to know the following:

  • The name and office number of the neurosurgeon who placed your VP shunt.

  • The name and type of VP shunt that was placed.

From time to time, the shunt may need to be changed out if it was placed in a child. As the child grows, he or she will need a longer shunt to fit the growing body. A VP shunt is a lifelong device.

WARNING SIGNS OF VP SHUNT MALFUNCTION

A VP shunt can malfunction or become clogged. If the shunt is not working properly, it will not drain the cerebrospinal fluid and can cause an increase in brain pressure. You should know the warning signs of a VP shunt malfunction. Warning signs can appear suddenly and without warning. These signs can include:

  • Headache. This is a headache that increases and gets worse over time.

  • Throwing up (vomiting) without cause.

  • Feeling more sleepy than normal.

  • Irritability.

  • Babies or young children who cannot speak may become increasingly fussy.

  • Young children who can speak may become increasingly whiny, grouchy, or impatient.

  • In infants less than 1 year of age, the head may start to get bigger.

  • Personality change.

  • Vision change. This may be blurry vision, double vision, or loss of vision.

  • Swelling of the skin that runs along the VP shunt path.

  • A bulging, soft spot on your child's head.

  • High-pitched crying.

  • Feeding problems or refusing to eat.

  • In adults, a return of the symptoms that the shunt was meant to treat.

  • In elderly patients, trouble walking, mental problems, or inability to control the bladder (urinary incontinence).

  • In young women with symptoms that mimic a brain tumor (pseudotumor cerebri), loss of vision or very bad headaches.

WARNING SIGNS OF VP SHUNT INFECTION

A VP shunt infection happens when bacteria infect the tissue around the VP shunt. This can cause the VP shunt to stop working properly. The following are signs of an infection:

  • Fever.

  • Redness or swelling of the skin that runs along the VP shunt path.

  • Pain around the shunt or around the shunt tubing.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have increased sleepiness or trouble waking up.

  • You have vomiting without an apparent cause.

  • You have a headache or worsening headache.

  • You develop twitching or shaking (seizures).

  • You notice irritability, fussiness, or high-pitched crying.

  • You develop vision problems.

  • You have a fever.

  • There is redness or swelling along the VP shunt path.

  • You lose coordination or balance.

  • You notice abnormal behavior.