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If an obstruction or other problem is found within the shunt system, one or more components of the shunt may need to be replaced. When this occurs, surgery is necessary.

Some of the problems that can cause a shunt malfunction are:

  • Infection
  • Blockage
  • Calcification or breakage of the catheters
  • Separation (catheters may disconnect from the valve and reservoir unit)
  • Valve is broken or stuck
  • Wrong pressure valve (usually found in a fixed shunt)
  • Catheter needs lengthening
  • Over-drainage or under-drainage

When a patient shows signs - like those listed in Signs of Hydrocephalus, it is best to make an appointment with the neurologist or neurosurgeon. Usually, if you advise the doctor's personnel of a possible shunt malfunction they will try to arrange an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible. Should the patient's condition worsen - and you are unable to reach the doctor's office, you should take the patient to the emergency room of the hospital and advise the desk personnel of a possible shunt malfunction. If you are the patient, have someone assist you.

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