What are the complications of a shunt system in treating hydrocephalus?

A shunt system is not a perfect device. Complications may include mechanical failure, infections, obstructions, and the need for lengthening or replacing the catheter. Generally, a shunt system requires monitoring and regular medical follow-up, and when complications occur, the system usually requires some type of revision.

Some complications can lead to other problems such as overdraining or underdraining. Overdraining occurs when the shunt allows cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to drain from the ventricles faster than it is produced. Overdraining can cause the ventricles to collapse, tearing blood vessels and causing a headache, hemorrhage (subdural hematoma), or slitlike ventricles (slit ventricle syndrome). Underdraining occurs when CSF is not removed quickly enough and the symptoms of hydrocephalus recur. In addition to the common symptoms of hydrocephalus, infections from a shunt may also produce symptoms such as a low-grade fever, soreness of the neck or shoulder muscles, and redness or tenderness along the shunt tract. When there is a reason to suspect that a shunt system is not functioning properly (for example, if the symptoms of hydrocephalus return), medical attention should be sought immediately.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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