A shunt is an electronic device which enables passing of electric current to another point in the circuit by generating a low resistance path. An intracranial shunt or a brain shunt is a narrow and tapered piece of tubing which is introduced into the brain in the fluid-filled ventricle. The tube-like device is passed from beneath the skin into another area of the body, mostly into the abdomen. At times, the intracranial shunt tube can be positioned into one of the chambers of lungs’ lining or the heart. The shunt helps in alleviating the pressure on the brain, which is a condition called hydrocephalus. The procedure drains out the excess fluid in the brain ventricles to other area of the body where the fluid is absorbed more quickly. Study on intracranial shunt device market states that in order to treat hydrocephalus, placing cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) shunt systems is the most common medical procedure and also a life saving option for many patients. The shunt basically removes the extra fluid which causes the intracranial pressure to some other part of the body where it is soaked as a major part of the circulatory process. Brain shunts comprise of three key components – a valve which regulates the fluid flow, an in-flow tube (catheter), and an outflow catheter which channels the excess fluid to the heart or abdomen where the fluid is absorbed.
Who requires intracranial shunt?
Hydrocephalus can happen to individuals of any age group. Nevertheless, according to some research, hydrocephalus is more expected to happen in older adults or babies. The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) predicts that one to two of each 1,000 babies are born with hydrocephalus. Extra fluid can get accumulated in the brain for several reasons, which include:
- Weak absorption of CSF by the blood vessels
- Obstructions stopping the fluid from flowing and spreading out in the brain
- Excess production of CSF
- Tumors, cysts, or any kind of inflammation in the brain can hamper the regular flow of CSF and generate an unsafe collection of fluid.
Different Types of Intracranial shunts
- Ventriculo-Atrial – shunt catheter passes from the ventricle in the brain into the right atrium cavity of the heart
- Ventriculo-Peritoneal – shunt catheter is passed from the ventricle in the brain to the abdominal cavity
- Ventriculo-Pleural – shunt catheter is passed from ventricle in the brain to the pleural space situated outside the lung
- Fixed pressure – these types of shunts have valves which help in draining out the fluid at a pre-set rate – low, medium, or high
- Programmable – shunts having adjustable valves which let more or less amount of fluid to drain
Disclaimer: The information given in this write-up is purely for educating the reader. It is not meant to be a substitute for any advice from a medical expert.