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Hydrocephalus - Complications of hydrocephalus

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Shunt malfunction

A shunt is a delicate piece of equipment�that is prone to malfunction, usually through blockage or infection.

The risk of a shunt blockage is highest in the first year after surgery, with an estimated risk of blockage at 20%. After this time, the risk falls to about 5%.

Shunt infection is also a relatively common complication. The risk can range from between 3-12% depending on age and general state of health.

If a shunt malfunctions, it will cause the symptoms of hydrocephalus, such as a headache, nausea and vomiting, to return.

A shunt malfunction can be very serious because the build-up of cerebrospinal fluid can damage the brain. If�you or your child find your�symptoms return, you should contact your care team immediately.�

Long-term complications of congenital hydrocephalus

Many babies with congenital hydrocephalus experience permanent damage to their brain. This can cause a number of long-term complications such as:

  • autism, a condition that causes problems with communication and social interaction,
  • learning difficulties,
  • impaired speech,
  • memory problems,
  • short attention span,
  • problems with vision, such as a squint (strabismus),
  • problems with physical co-ordination.
Medical Review: March 29, 2009
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