Your child has hydrocephalus and needed a shunt placed to drain excess fluid and relieve pressure in the brain. This buildup of brain fluid (cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF) causes the brain tissue to press (become compressed) against the skull. Too much pressure or pressure that is present too long can damage the brain tissue.
After your child goes home, follow the health care provider's instructions on how to care for child. Use the information below as a reminder.
When Your Child Was in the Hospital
Your child had a cut (skin incision) and a small hole drilled through the skull. A small cut was also made in the belly. A valve was placed underneath the skin behind the ear or at the back of the head. One tube (catheter) was placed into the brain to bring the fluid to the valve. Another tube was connected to the valve and threaded underneath the skin down into your child's belly or elsewhere like around the lung or in the heart.
What to Expect at Home
Any stitches or staples that you can see will be taken out in about 7 to 14 days.
All parts of the shunt are underneath the skin. At first, the area at the top of the shunt may be raised up underneath the skin. As the swelling goes away and your child's hair grows back, there will be a small raised area about the size of a quarter that is usually not noticeable.
Do not shower or shampoo your child's head until the stitches and staples have been taken out. Give your child a sponge bath instead. The wound should not soak in water until the skin is completely healed.
Do not push on the part of the shunt that you can feel or see underneath your child's skin behind the ear.
Your child should be able to eat normal foods after going home, unless the provider tells you otherwise.
Your child should be able to do most activities:
- If you have a baby, handle your baby the way you would normally. It is OK to bounce your baby.
- Older children can do most regular activities. Talk with your provider about contact sports.
- Most of the time, your child may sleep in any position. But, check this with your provider as each child is different.
Your child may have some pain. Children under 4 years old may take acetaminophen (Tylenol). Children age 4 and older may be prescribed stronger pain medicines, if needed. Follow your provider's instructions or instructions on the medicine container, about how much medicine to give your child.
When to Call the Doctor
The major problems to watch for are an infected shunt and a blocked shunt.
Call your child's provider if your child has:
- Confusion or seems less aware
- Fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher
- Pain in the belly that does not go away
- Stiff neck or headache
- No appetite or is not eating well
- Veins on the head or scalp that look larger than they used to
- Problems in school
- Poor development or has lost a developmental skill previously attained
- Become more cranky or irritable
- Redness, swelling, bleeding, or increased discharge from the incision
- Vomiting that does not go away
- Sleep problems or is more sleepy than usual
- High-pitched cry
- Been looking more pale
- A head that is growing larger
- Bulging or tenderness in the soft spot at the top of the head
- Swelling around the valve or around the tube going from the valve to their belly
- A seizure
Shunt - ventriculoperitoneal - discharge; VP shunt - discharge; Shunt revision - discharge; Hydrocephalus shunt placement - discharge
Badhiwala JH, Kulkarni AV. Ventricular shunting procedures. In: Winn HR, ed. Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 201.
Hanak BW, Bonow RH, Harris CA, Browd SR. Cerebrospinal fluid shunting complications in children. Pediatr Neurosurg. 2017;52(6):381-400. PMID: 28249297 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28249297/.
Rosenberg GA. Brain edema and disorders of cerebrospinal fluid circulation. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 88.
Review Date 7/20/2020
Updated by: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, FRCS (C), FACS, Department of Surgery, Johnson City Medical Center, TN; Department of Surgery St-Alexius Medical Center, Bismarck, ND; Department of Neurosurgery Fort Sanders Medical Center, Knoxville, TN, Department of Neurosurgery UPMC Williamsport PA, Department of Maxillofacial Surgery at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.