The parts of a shunt are named according to where they are placed in the body. The portion of the tube which is inserted into the ventricles is called the ventricular catheter. The peritoneal catheter is the portion of the tube which passes the CSF into the abdomen (pertioneal cavity). If the tube is placed into the right atrium of the heart it is called the atrial catheter. The valve regulates the pressure of the CSF flow and prevents backward flow of spinal fluid toward the ventricles. Valves are designed to operate at low, medium, or high pressure. Depending on the particular nature of your child's hydrocephalus, your neurosurgeon will select an appropriate valve pressure to accommodate your child's needs. Some valve models have an on/off control device.
Many shunt systems also have a flexible flushing chamber (reservoir) which may be housed within the same unit as the valve or may be a separate unit along the shunt, depending on the design of the shunt system. This chamber serves several important purposes. It permits your physician to remove samples of CSF from the shunt with a needle and syringe, and to inject the chamber for testing shunt function and for treatment. The chamber also allows the shunt to be "flushed" or pumped. Flusing is accomplished simply by pressing on the skin overlying the flushing chamber. Depending on the design of the shunt and the manner in which the chamber is pressed, fluid can be forced toward or away from the ventricles. Flushing the chamber sometimes allows your doctor to determine whether the shunt is functioning properly.
NEVER PUMP THE CHAMBER YOURSELF.
Because serious problems may result from too frequent or improper flushing of the chamber, parents and children should NEVER try to manipulate the shunt system on their own UNLESS THEY ARE EXPLICITLY INSTRUCTED TO DO SO BY THE DOCTOR.
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