Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt Surgery: Before Your Surgery

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What is ventriculoperitoneal shunt surgery?

Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt surgery drains extra fluid out of the brain. The extra fluid moves into the belly and is absorbed by the body. This helps control the pressure in the brain so the brain can work as it should.

Some health problems can cause swelling and pressure in the brain. These include brain tumors and hydrocephalus, which is extra fluid in the brain.

The surgery is done in two parts. First, the doctor drills a small hole in your skull. A thin tube is then placed in the brain's fluid-filled part. Then the doctor threads a thin tube from a cut in your belly to your chest and neck. The two tubes are then connected with a valve. This allows the fluid to drain into the belly.

You will be asleep during this surgery. It usually takes a few hours. After the surgery, you will probably stay in the hospital for several days. Your doctor will let you know when you can go back to school or work.

You can do all of your normal activities with the shunt in place. You will have a lump on your head where the valve is.

You probably will have your VP shunt for life. After several years, you may need to replace it. You may also need to replace it if it stops working well.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take a few hours.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.