Sunday, September 2, 2012

I love someone with a shunt...

no doubt about it, this simple looking contraption saves lives...

pre-shunt, post-shunt, and all smiles now!
In the world of medicine, a shunt is a narrow tube that moves the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that has built-up inside the skull to another part of the body. There are three emptying locations for the CSF, the most common being the abdomen or peritoneum (belly) with a ventriculo-peritoneal (VP) shunt. The other locations being the heart with a ventriculo-atrial (VA) shunt or in to the space surrounding the lung with a ventriculo-pleural shunt. 

There are also two types of shunts: a fixed pressure with a pre-set pressure valve that requires surgery for adjustments and a programmable shunt that allows for adjustments using a magnet by a neurosurgeon during a quick office visit.

Left untreated, hydrocephalus in it self can be fatal. Having a diagnosis of hydranencephaly complicates the convincing of medical professionals to even place a shunt for quality of life purposes. Sadly, since our children have a poor prognosis, doctors are extremely hesitant to allow a child to undergo shunt placement surgery... 

Without a doubt, this surgery proves to save the lives of children with hydranencephaly just as if they were to not have other medical complexities. One of the first battles parents face, one that I will forever encourage parents to wage with their medical team, is for placement of a shunt if their child is displaying the obvious signs of hydrocephalus: sunsetting eyes, obvious enlargement of the head due to build-up of CSF, irritability, lethargy, and obvious pain and discomfort. 

One great resource to visit is HydroKids, a Johnson & Johnson company affiliate, for more information. And, of course, our friends at Hydrocephalus Association have a wealth of information and methods of support as well.

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