Shunts work like valves, which ensure that excess brain fluid - cerebrospinal fluid - is drained way from the inside of the skull. This procedure is used in patients with hydrocephalus, for example, or where the pressure inside the brain is elevated, which can occur as a result of tumours, for instance. The circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid is also disturbed when aneurysms cause a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage.
During the operation, which is performed under general anaesthetics, we insert a flexible, thin tube system that runs from the ventricle of the brain to the abdomen, or into a vein in the neck area. A valve controls the individual volume of CSF that flows through the shunt.
This operation can be carried out using minimally-invasive techniques, which means we only need to make a few small incisions. The aim of the treatment is to guide the brain fluid to places where the body will absorb it via natural means. This reduces the pressure in the head. In some cases, the shunt system can be removed again after a certain period of time.