What is shunt malfunction?

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Before knowing what the shunt malfunction is, we should know that a shunt system is usually used for the treatment of Hydrocephalus. And shunt malfunction is the most common shunt complication and the other common shunt complication is infection.

Shunt malfunction will cause a shunt system to function intermittently or totally stop because of a partial or complete blockage. If shunt malfunction happens, the cerebrospinal fluid will accumulate and cause the symptoms of untreated hydrocephalus.


There are mainly two blockages in shunt malfunction, blockage of the proximal ventricular catheter and distal blockage. In most cases, the blockage of the proximal ventricular catheter is the main cause of shunt malfunction. If there is a distal blockage, the cause mainly changes into the infection.


The symptoms are different according to the age of the patients.

Malfunction in children and adults:

  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Vision problems
  • Irritability and/or tiredness
  • Personality change
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty in waking up or staying awake

Malfunction in infants:

  • Enlargement of the baby's head
  • Fontanelle is full and tense when the infant is upright and quiet
  • Prominent scalp veins
  • Swelling along the shunt tract
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness
  • Downward deviation of the eyes
  • Seizures


The signs of shunt malfunction are very obvious, such as headaches, vomiting and lethargy, so the diagnosis is relatively easy. A CT scan or MRI will be used for diagnosing older children and adults. For infants whose skulls have not yet fused, an ultrasound examination will be considered.

Make sure to contact your doctor for more information about shunt malfunction. If ignored, there will be life-threatening condition.