What is hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus (hydro=water, cephalus=head) is an abnormal increase of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. This can be caused by problems with how the CSF is produced, circulated, or reabsorbed. As this fluid collects in the brain, intracranial pressure increases and the ventricles enlarge. This increase in pressure causes symptoms. These symptoms may vary with the age of the patient. Often they include one or more from the list below.
- Decrease in appetite
- Feeling sleepy
- Blurred or double vision
- Increase in infant's head size
- "Sunset eyes" (eyes which do not look up)
- Clumsiness in older kids and adults
Normal Ventricles Hydrocephalic Ventricles
Treatment for Hydrocephalus
To reduce intracranial pressure, a VP (ventriculo-peritoneal) shunt is placed during surgery. A shunt is a narrow piece of tubing that drains the excess CSF from the ventricles to the abdomen. Once it is in the abdomen, the CSF is absorbed by the body.
In order to place the shunt, a small hole will be made through the skull bone. Tubing is placed through the hole into the brain. A one-way valve is attached to the catheter and placed under the scalp. The valve is then attached to the catheter that travels under the skin to the abdomen. A small incision is made in the abdomen where the catheter ends. The operation will take about two hours.
- You will see your primary care provider for a physical exam, health review and lab tests.
- Please stop aspirin and ibuprofen for two weeks before surgery. It is alright to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) if needed.
- Wash your hair, neck, chest, and abdomen twice before surgery. Please use an antibacterial soap. Wash (do not scrub) for 2-3 minutes. Rinse well. Do not use lotions, powders or perfumes.
- You may not eat anything or drink any mil or juice with pulp after midnight the night before surgery.
- It is alright to drink clear liquids until 4 hours before surgery.
- You will be called the afternoon before surgery. At this time you will be told what time you need to arrive at the hospital. You will also be given the final details about how to get ready for the next day.
- You will need to sign a consent form that states that you understand what the neurosurgeon explained to you about the procedure. The consent also states that you know about the risks and benefits of the surgery.
- Do not wear make-up, jewelry or nail polish to surgery.
There is mild pain involved with this surgery. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or Ibuprofen may be used for this mild pain. You will spend a minimum of one night in the hospital. Once you are eating and drinking and there are no other concerns, your intravenous (IV) line will be removed. When all of this happens you will be ready to go home.
There may be two dressings in place. One will be on the head and one on the abdomen. The dressing and staples stay in place until the follow-up clinic visit in 7 – 10 days. The dressing should remain clean and dry. If there is any clear drainage from the incision, call the neurosurgery department right away. After discharge, you may resume your normal routine. You should wait at least two weeks after surgery before getting immunizations.
You will need regular follow ups with a neurosurgeon. You will also need MRI scans to check the size of the ventricles.
When to call
Sometimes a shunt does not work because it becomes clogged or disconnected. It also may not work if it becomes infected. Please call right away if you notice any of these signs and symptoms:
· Redness, pain or swelling of the skin along the length of the shunt, or at the incision sites
· Drainage from the incision
· Fever greater than 101.5°F within the first six months of surgery
· Nausea or vomiting
· Recurring headaches
· Blurred or double vision
· Loss of appetite
· Sudden or gradual change in personality
· Rubbing of the head
· Balance or coordination problems
· Sunset eyes
If at any time you have a question or a concern, call your doctor’s office.
Catie, RN (608) 262-2761 Lisa, RN (608) 890-6942 To schedule an appointment (608) 263-6420
After hours, weekends and holidays, call the paging operator at (608) 262-0486. Ask for the neurosurgeon on call. Give your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, call 1-800-323-8942.
Spanish version is #5972
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 03/20/2012
Copyright © 03/19/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5258
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