Brain Tumor Surgery to Remove Fluid

You might have surgery to drain a build up of fluid on your brain (hydrocephalus).

Build up of fluid

The fluid around the brain and spinal cord is called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Some brain tumours block the normal circulation of this fluid. Because it cannot drain away, the fluid builds up inside the skull and around the spinal cord.

This increases the pressure inside the head (intracranial pressure). This fluid on the brain is called hydrocephalus. It can cause symptoms, such as headaches and sickness.

Shunts

To drain this fluid, you need to have a shunt put in during your operation. A shunt is a drainage tube. You might hear it called a ventricular catheter. Shunts are usually plastic and about 0.3cm (3mm) across. They have valves so that fluid can flow down from the brain but not back the other way.

There are no outward signs that the shunt is there.

Shunts drain away the extra fluid from the ventricles of the brain, to other parts of the body, where it is harmlessly absorbed. The most common type is the ventriculo peritoneal shunt, which is a tube from the brain ventricles into the abdomen (tummy). Another type drains the fluid into the chest cavity.

You might have a shunt put in as a temporary measure. Or it might be permanent.

Possible problems with shunts

The shunt may become blocked or infected.

Infection

If your shunt is infected you might have:

  • a headache
  • rarely, a reddening of the skin over the path of the shunt (a red area tracking down your neck and chest for example)

If your shunt is infected you will need to have antibiotics.

Blockage

If the shunt becomes blocked you might start to have the symptoms of raised pressure in the skull such as:

  • headaches
  • sickness
  • drowsiness
  • unconsciousness
  • headaches
  • neck stiffness

If your shunt becomes blocked you might need an operation to replace it.

Contact your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. They can check your shunt and give you treatment.
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