Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What is a shunt and how does it work??

So we've gotten a lot of questions lately about what an actual shunt is and what it looks like.  And seems like everyone asks "How long will it stay in for?" Well the answer is...forever.  Austin will always need a shunt because his body will always produce CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) and he will always have a small aqueduct that won't allow for the CSF to properly pass throughout his brain and body.  So, with all of that is what a shunt is...

A shunt is a narrow tube that allows excess CSF that has built up inside the skull to drain out into another part of the body (in Austin's case, the abdomen).  To drain excess CSF, shunts are inserted into an opening or pouch inside the brain called a ventricle, just above where the blockage is that is preventing the CSF from flowing properly.


All shunts perform two functions.  They allow CSF to flow in only one direction, to where it is meant to drain.  And they all have valves, which regulate the amount of pressure inside the skull.  When this pressure becomes too great, the valve opens, lowering the pressure by allowing excess CSF to drain out. 

Austin has a programmable shunt, which allows the shunt to be programmed for his individual needs, which could/will change as he gets older. 

A shunt has four main parts:  Upper catheter is the top most part of the shunt.  It is a small narrow tube that is inserted into the ventricle inside the brain that contains the CSF.  The Reservoir is where the excess CSF is collected until it drains into the bottom portion of the shunt.  The Valve controls how much CSF is allowed to drain from the brain.  And the lower catheter is the bottom most part of the shunt.  It is a narrow tube that carries the excess CSF into the part of the body where it will be absorbed.  In Austin's case, the belly.
Austin has a small (about an inch) horseshoe shaped incision at the top of the right side of his head.  Then you can see the tubing of the shunt, which I'm told will be less and less noticeable as he gets older (that doesn't matter to me at long as its working!! :))  He has another really small incision where the lower catheter begins and then goes down to his belly.  You can see the tubing going down to about his neck and then it disappears down his neck and down the front of his chest and stomach.  He has another incision right above his belly button.  When he cries and fusses, you can sometimes see the tubing going down his body, but otherwise you can't see it.  And he's not limited to what he does physically.  Maybe someday he may have some limits, but we already have one son who can't play football or wrestle, so its not a big deal to me if Austin can't do those things either.  Kevin and I actually joke all the time that our sons are going to be the "artsy" kind of kids...not the sports kind.  Haha, nothing wrong with that. 

Hope that gives you a better understanding on what Austin's shunt is all about.  Like I said, I'm still learning all of this myself, but its good to have some basic knowledge on how it all works. 

You know the saying, God works in mysterious ways?  Well, in my case, there is no denying it.  What family can say they have two kids with two different medical issues, and two different foreign objects surgically implanted in their heads??  Its just craziness.  But thank goodness for technology!!  (In fact, there are still some concerns that Jake's cochlear magnets can affect the program of Austin's shunt since that is magnet too!  But its very hard to keep a 3 year old away from his 7 week old brother!!!)  Ahhhh the things we have to worry about, not many people have walked in our shoes.  I wouldn't trade it for the world though!  Love my boys...

Here is a shot of how Austin's shunt looks...(its not as swollen now as it was in this pic last week)

1 comment:

  1. 2/5/2013 - How is Austin doing now? And your other son?