What is ventriculoperitoneal shunt malfunction?

Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt Malfunction

What are the signs of problems with a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt?

If the VP shunt stops working as it should, your child may not feel well. Your child may not be as alert or active as usual. Your child may be cranky or have a headache. Or they may not want to eat very much or may vomit.

You might see swelling where the shunt enters your child's head. If there is an infection, your child may have a fever.

How are problems with a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt treated?

If the shunt is damaged or blocked with tissue, that part of the shunt may be able to be replaced. That could be a valve, a tube, or another part of the shunt.

If there's an infection, the shunt may need to be removed. Your child will get antibiotics to treat the infection. After the infection is gone, a new shunt will be put in if needed. While the shunt is gone, your child may have a temporary drain to remove the fluid. Sometimes a temporary sac is used to hold fluids in place.

How are problems with a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask what symptoms your child has and when they started. Your doctor likely will do an imaging test like an MRI to help find out what might be wrong with the shunt. Some fluid may be taken from the shunt to check for infection.

How can you care for your child who has ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt problems?

These problems need to be treated in the hospital. After treatment, follow any instructions the doctor gives you on how to care for your child at home. Give any medicines as prescribed. And take your child to all follow-up appointments.

What is a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt?

Some health problems can cause swelling and pressure in the brain. A ventriculoperitoneal (say "ven-TRICK-yuh-loh-pair-uh-tuh-NEE-uhl") shunt helps control the pressure in your child's brain. The shunt drains extra fluid out of the brain and into the belly. This extra fluid is absorbed by your child's body.

A VP shunt is made up of different parts that work together to remove the extra fluid in the brain. Two thin tubes called catheters are attached to the back of your child's head, under the skin, with a valve. One tube drains extra fluid from the brain. The other tube goes under the skin of the neck and chest and into the belly. The valve connects the tubes and controls the flow of fluid.

What can cause problems with a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt?

A problem can happen anywhere in the shunt. For example:

  • A part of a shunt might be damaged, or a tube might have moved from its site.
  • A shunt can become blocked by body tissue or other material.
  • A shunt can become infected. The infection might be in the skin and then spread into the shunt. This is most common soon after a child gets a shunt, but it can happen later. The infection makes the fluid get thicker. Thickened fluid might move out of the brain more slowly, or it might stop moving at all.

Malfunction of a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has a seizure.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness over the area.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • Your child is not acting normally or is more cranky.
  • Your child has a headache that doesn't get better.
  • Your child is much less alert than usual.
  • Your child is vomiting.
  • Your child has a swollen and firm "soft spot" (if a baby).
  • Your child has trouble with walking and balance.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if your child has any problems.

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