Patients and caregivers must be alert for the signs and symptoms of potential problems following the implanting of a shunt. The major complications of shunting are obstruction, infection, and over-drainage.
When a shunt malfunction occurs, it is usually due to a partial or complete blockage of the system. This can occur anywhere in the catheter tubing or the valve and prevent the CSF from draining properly. If not corrected, this will cause the original hydrocephalus symptoms to return.
Shunt infections are most commonly caused by the patient’s own bacterial organisms living on their skin rather than by exposure to other people. The infection usually originates at the time of the operation and should be suspected if there is any unusual redness or swelling of the wounds or along the shunt track.
This is caused by too much CSF being removed from the ventricles. If uncorrected it can cause the ventricles to decrease in size to a point where the brain may pull away slightly from the skull. Bleeding or clotting may occur with symptoms such as severe headache, nausea, vomiting and seizures.
Less common issues
Rarer complications which can lead to the return of the hydrocephalus symptoms include under-drainage, disconnection of the tubing, and mechanical failure of the valve.