A shunt is simply a device which diverts the gathered CSF from the obstructed pathways and returns it to the bloodstream. It consists of a system of tubes with a valve to control the rate of drainage and prevent back-flow. It is inserted surgically so that the upper end is in a ventricle of the brain and the lower end leads either into the heart or into the abdomen. The device is completely enclosed so that all of it is inside the body. The fluid which is drained into the abdomen passes from there into the bloodstream. Other drainage sites such as the outer lining of the lungs (ventriculo-pleural shunt) can also be used. Hydrocephalus fluid can be drained from the brain through surgical placement of a special tube called a shunt. The shunt runs under the skin into the chest or abdomen, and the fluid passes harmlessly through the child’s body.
The shunt needs to be replaced every few years. This can last anything from a year to 10 years and needs to be surgically replaced again. I was born with Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele and Hydrocephalus. I am 19 years of age and my shunt was replaced once when I was 9 years old. I spent three weeks in Hospital. The doctor operated once. A few days later the shunt blocked again so I needed more surgery. I went back in to theatre again where the surgeon decided to insert a draining tube for 10 days to see if that would help. Then 10 days later I went back in to theatre again for the last time. The surgeon decided to go to the left side to insert a new shunt. When I went back for my checkup I discovered to my amazement and delight that the two shunts were actually working.