ACA

Shunts Discussion

In Arachnoid Cysts, Hydrocephalus, Shunts on August 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Posted at 1:31 PM on 5/27/2011
Even though shunts save lives, they can still come with complications, as any permanent foreign implant inside of our bodies would.

In my experience the symptoms of shunts over draining or under draining are very similar. Sometimes an over draining shunt will not be obvious in scans or a shunt x ray series, which is why it is good to know what to look for.

Typical symptoms of both over draining and under draining shunts in my experience have been:

Increased headaches
Head pain around the shunt valve
Nausea
Vomiting (tends to be projectile in an under draining shunt)
Dizziness/vertigo

In an under draining shunt you may experience:

Incoordination
Memory lapses
Overall confusion
Feeling of head being under pressure

In an over draining shunt you may also experience:

Shunt valve vibration or buzzing–this has been explained to me as the shunt sucking up air instead of fluid.
Headaches worse when standing or sitting up that are relieved when lying flat.

What have you dealt with with your shunt malfunction?

Bob Smarks

Posted at 1:38 PM on 5/27/2011
I never knew what the buzzing was all about. That makes sense to me now. Thank you.

Jenby Brisner

Posted at 2:41 PM on 5/27/2011
I would say that you have the effects correct. I have had both overdraining and undraining in my shunts. I have hydrocephalus and arachnoid cysts, have had both shunts and fenestrations. My shunt now drains to my atrium heart chamber and when mine malfunctions the only thing to add to the list is palpitations/irregular heart beats.

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  1. Hi my name is Bob, you may or may not remember me from the old website, but I was one of the very active members. I have a shunt. I had 2 surgeries: one to “remove” my cyst and then the other to place a shunt in my cyst that was never really removed. They were done at two different hospitals.

  2. I was reading about the shunt malfunctioning and for the past two years I have been experiencing the signs but getting a neurosurgeon to believe me is another story. Since it does not show up in an exray or cat scan, it is working fine. This one was placed in 09 and is my 8th one. Any suggestions?

    • Malfunction can show up on a shunt series, ct scan or MRI. A shunt series is the best to look at the entirety of the tubing to check for kinks, overcoiling, or even dislocation. Underdraining is always easier to diagnose because the cyst would build up and grow and grow and an MRI would detect that. overdraining can show up more easily if your shunt is in one of your ventricles, but if it is in the cyst itself, it is a difficult thing to know for sure. But any good neurosurgeon will be able to tell that it is overdraining based on the symptoms if underdraining has already been ruled out.

    • Hi my name is Deb. I had an excision of a 7 by 5 cm subarachnoid cyst in 2008. My cyst grew back to 6 by 4 cm in 2012 and I had a shunt placed in that drains into my stomach. Has anyone had to have their shunt replaced or how often do shunts have to be replaced. Since my surgery in April of 2012 everything seems to be going well for me. I’m a little nervous because I had a bad recovery from last years surgery. Do I need yearly ct scans to see if the shunt is working?

  3. I agree with Bob. I have been experiencing the loud buzzing in my ears and head. I have fallen victim to both over/under draining. When I expressed my concerns to four different sugeon’s, I ws told four different diagnosis ranging from cluster headaches to my need for stronger narcotic medication. I cannot enjoy life right now since I never know when an episode will hit. By episode I mean, a knife stabs me in the back of my head where the shunt and cyst are. In a few minutes, something starts squeezing the back of my brain, with the knife still working. Then again, in a few more minutes, there wil be the sensation that somebody as their hand on the top of my brain and is now squeezing the entire thing. The knife is still doing it’s thing. If I try to get up, I will be on my knees in a few seconds, not only from the pain, but at this point, my balance is fried. These episodes can last anywhere from a matter of minutes to a week. I too am bounced between doctors. The sugeon says I’m fine and sends me back to the neurologist who gives me my pain meds to try to keep me comfortable. How can the ct scan show any over draining shunt if it’s not doing it at the time of the scan? I’ve had eight surgeries and know when somethings wrong. How do I get the surgeon to listen? I had to have my last surgery in Denver, Co, while I was on vacation visiting my mom. It was an emergency so there’s no chance of going back to that surgeon. Please, any suggestion that you can give me will be gratefully appreciated.

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