A spinal shunt is a treatment to relieve the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain or spinal cord. There are various types of spinal shunts, each with its own purpose, and they can provide relief from hydrocephalus, arachnoid cysts, pseudomeningoceles, or other symptoms. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons for having a spinal shunt, the types of shunt available, and the risks and benefits of this procedure.

A spinal shunt is a type of implantable medical device that helps regulate pressure in the brain and spinal cord. The device is typically composed of a catheter tube, a valve, and a special type of pump known as a shunt reservoir. The catheter is placed into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), if needed, to help drain and control the build-up of fluid or to introduce medication. The valve is usually located in the abdominal area and helps to regulate pressure in the brain and spinal column. It is designed to divert CSF away from areas of pressure buildup and to other parts of the body such as the chest or abdomen. The shunt reservoir is another part of the device that is placed beneath the skin in the chest or abdomen, and it is used to control the amount of liquid that is released from the valve.

Why Are Spinal Shunts Needed?

Spinal shunts are primarily used to treat hydrocephalus, a condition in which excess fluid accumulates in the brain. This fluid increase causes pressure on the brain and spinal cord, which can lead to a number of serious health problems including brain damage and neurological deficits. Other conditions that can be treated with spinal shunts include arachnoid cysts, pseudomeningoceles, and Chiari malformation.

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Types of Spinal Shunts

Ventriculoperitoneal Shunts

This type of shunt involves placing a tube with a valve attached in the ventricles of the brain, allowing for the draining of excess CSF into the peritoneal cavity. It is one of the most common types of spinal shunt and is used to treat hydrocephalus in both children and adults.

Ventriculoatrial Shunts

This is a type of shunt used for treating hydrocephalus in newborn infants. The tube is inserted into the ventricles of the brain and then connected to the chambers of the heart, allowing the excess CSF to be drained directly from the brain into the bloodstream.

Non-valved Shunts

This type of shunt is similar to the ventriculoperitoneal shunt but instead of a valve being placed in the ventricles of the brain, the opening of the tube is left open so that it can simply be used to divert excess CSF away from the brain and into the peritoneal cavity.

Subgaleal Shunts

This type of shunt is used to treat hydrocephalus in babies who are born prematurely. The shunt is placed beneath the scalp, allowing for the drainage of CSF directly from the ventricles of the brain into the scalp.

Risks and Benefits of a Spinal Shunt

The potential risks of a spinal shunt include infection, brain tissue damage, and shunt malfunction. The benefits of having a spinal shunt can include reduction of hydrocephalus-related symptoms such as vision and motor problems as well as general improvements in quality of life.

People Also Ask

How Is A Spinal Shunt Placed?

A spinal shunt is implanted during a surgical procedure in which the surgeon makes an incision in the skin and inserts the shunt device beneath the skin. The device is then connected to the brain and spinal cord, allowing for the drainage and regulation of cerebrospinal fluid.

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Can A Spinal Shunt Be Removed?

Yes, a spinal shunt can be safely removed if it is no longer needed or if complications arise. In this case, the procedure is similar to the one used for implantation but the catheter and valve are removed rather than inserted.

What Are The Side Effects Of A Spinal Shunt?

Some of the most common side effects associated with having a spinal shunt include infection, irritation at the site of the shunt, headache, dizziness and nausea. In rare cases, more serious complications can occur such as seizures, brain damage, stroke and death.

Is A Spinal Shunt A Permanent Solution?

No, a spinal shunt is not a permanent solution. Most patients will need to have their spinal shunt replaced or adjusted periodically in order to maintain its efficacy.

How Long Does A Spinal Shunt Last?

The lifespan of a spinal shunt depends on the type of shunt and the patient’s individual needs. Generally speaking, the average lifespan is anywhere from three to 10 years but the shunt can be adjusted or replaced as needed.

Final Words

Spinal shunts can be a beneficial form of treatment for hydrocephalus and other cerebrospinal fluid related disorders. It is important for patients to understand the risks and benefits of this procedure and speak to their doctor about the best course of treatment for their condition. With proper care, patients who choose to have a spinal shunt placed can often experience a significant improvement in their quality of life.