Programmable shunt for hydrocephalus?


my little boy is in hospital on monday to have his shunt changed. he currently has a fixed pressure shunt, but they are changing it to a programmable one. this will be his 3rd shunt. he is now 7 months old(5 months corrected)

i dont really know anything about programmable shunts and would welcome any information people can offer. pros and cons? questions we need to ask the surgeon? any common problems encountered? would you recommend them? are magnets a real problem?

am feeling scared and nervous about his op, any information would be great.


Edited February 6, 2010 at 5:30 am

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I have never heard of a programmable shunt... my daughter has had 2, when the first one got infected she had an abdominal drain placed temporarily, then it had to be removed and a drain right from her head was placed. That's how her Neurosurgeon could tell what pressure shunt she needed. Are they using this type because they don't know what kind of pressure your LO needs? I hope you get some answers, I'm sorry I couldn't help you... I will keep my fingers crossed for you and your LO.

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they suspect his current shunt is just a bit too high pressure. with a programmable shunt they can change the pressure setting without the need for an operation. just hoping anyone with experience of them can give us an insight!

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Our son has a programmable shunt. He has gotten the pressure changed quite often (probably 5 times) to find the perfect setting (just the right amount of pressure and fluid in the ventricles). They change it with a handheld magnetic device, put right up to his head. Then we immediately go get an x-ray to see if the shunt is set properly (the x-ray shows what number is on the shunt dial so they know it is at the right pressure).

It has really been great - no cons that I can think of.

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thanks jbennion, it does sound good being able to easily change the pressure. do you have to be very careful around magnets? i heard that devices such as mobile phones, microwaves and even hair clippers should be avoided?

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You know, I have never thought of that... our Neuro never mentioned anything about avoiding those things. It would be a good question to ask...

I am pretty sure though that those types of things are not harmful, just because my son has been around them for 6 months now. The pressure has never changed on it's own (or from being around other magnetic things).

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thanks, thats good to hear! i think its just 'theoretical risk' but am unsure if they'd actually do anything. i'm assuming the only real 'no no's' are MRI scans and airport security scanners.

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My son has a Codman programmable shunt. They started him at a pressure of 110, but had to change it to 90 a few months after he got it because he was having symptoms of high ICP (sleepiness, sunsetting eyes, etc.) He has had this shunt for almost 3 years now (knock on wood) with no problems. I would totally recommed it. Otherwise, he would have had to have a shunt revision instead of just changing the setting with the magnet. Our neurosurgeon's NP actually showed us how to use the magnet thing in the office one day. She said you need to know this in case a resident comes to change his setting, so you can make sure the resident is doing it right. :) You do have to be careful around magnets. He has has 1 MRI, and they reset the shunt after it just in case. Also, if you go anwhere with metal detectors (airport, etc.) have them hand wand your child from the neck down. We have only had to do this once, at the courthouse to watch my brother get married. You might have to have a Dr. note for the airport.

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Hi All
I'm new to this site and have a 3yr old (24wkr). He has a programmable shunt which was recently re-adjusted due to it being reset. His setting is normally at 2.5 and changed to 0.5 :o( Does anyone know how this could have happened?? Our Neurosurgeon said that an MRI has a strong enough magnet but we haven't been around one. What about toy magnets, cell phones??

We are planning a family vacation to a theme park but now we don't know if we should cancel the trip.

Please help

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That is a good question and also good to know about metal detectors ... our neuro never told us to stay away from magnets (MRI's or anything!) I am wondering what else to watch out for...

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We have to travel from Bermuda to Boston to see our Neurosurgeon and avoid the Airport Scanners ... the TSA Agents will do a 'pat down'. We are now limiting cell phone use and making sure he is out of the kitchen when the microwave is on.

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My daughter also has a programmable shunt and I did ask her neuro the question about the magnets he told us only high volt magnets could affect the setting like an amp at a concert, MRI machine ect. He said the cell phone, tv, microwave does not have enough power to change the setting.

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hmmm now I'm really confused as to what could have caused the shunt adjustment. Could it be a malfunction? I'm not looking forward to watching my son experience another seizure and complain that his head hurts :(

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