Shunts & shunt malfunctions

Shunts & shunt malfunctions

What if the only way to save your life, was by inserting a thin piece of tubing into your brain and leading it to another part of your body?  How would you feel about that?  I get shivers every time I think about how they actually get this contraption into a human being.  But, there is the marvel of the design and function of this life-saving device, which quickly rids the mind of these visuals.

A shunt is largely made up of flexible silicone tubing to divert the flow of Cerebrospinal fluid to a different part of the body.  Fluid, which the body makes for its own benefit so, not a waste product that it needs to get rid of.  When you have an obstruction in the brain for whatever reason, the fluid can’t get to where it needs to go, so a buildup occurs.  And, just because there’s a buildup, doesn’t mean that the production line stops because quite frankly, the memo just doesn’t get through to halt creation.  It’s a catastrophic occurrence, one that (if left untreated), could be life-threatening.  Therefore, a foreign object (a Shunt) is introduced into the body or alternatively, a detour (an ETV – Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy) is created with an endoscope in one of the ventricles in your brain (3rd ventricle specifically, hence the name).

Like the new kid on the block, your body will either accept or reject its new attachment.  They need to get along if you are to survive.  And, just like any relationship, they’ll have their ups and downs and there will come a time when the two just won’t live in harmony.  This is almost a guarantee…What upsets the balance?  Well, no-one really knows.  Infections, scar tissue, blockages…these are but a few causes.

For some of us, it’s not just a simple kiss and makeup…everything’s better situation.  It’s a literal take your bags and go, get the hell out of here and don’t come back scenario.  Until the next knight in shining armour comes on the scene in the form of a shiny new shunt.

Love me or hate me, you can’t live without me” is probably a scenario, which best comes to mind.  They can be your lifetime companion under the best of circumstances, only needing to ever be replaced or adjusted a few times.  They can also be that one miracle you needed at a time when everything in the world seems to turn against you.

The way people who have this contraption in their head feel about it personally (good or bad), differs from person to person.  Given the circumstances, I would say it is each individuals’ right to feel the way they do regardless of anyone else…It’s simple really – if your shunt doesn’t give you too many problems, you won’t have a problem with it BUT if it does, well…you may be feeling a bit unfriendly towards it.

Shunts can and do fail at any given time and when they do, they can become a living nightmare, inflicting all sorts of agony on one’s body.  So a word of advice from me to you, always remain vigilant.

Guest post for Walk-n-rolling with Spina Bifida


  • Rachel Harding

    August 6, 2018 at 7:03 am Reply

    Is a shunt the same as an EVT ?

    • Skyewaters

      August 6, 2018 at 7:51 am Reply

      Hi Rachel. No it’s not. There are 2 treatment options for Hydrocephalus, a shunt or an ETV (Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy).

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