A Look at New Shunt Technology

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

By Jacob Getzoff and Dr. Jenna Koschnitzky, HA Director of Research Programs

Recently, a group of scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology tested a sensor that uses microtechnology to detect developing occlusions, or blockages, within a shunt. The device may also be able to predict where the occlusion is forming and how much longer the shunt can function before the occlusion completely stops the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

 

The sensor has a small membrane that flexes when the pressure inside of the shunt tubing changes. When the membrane flexes, a change in electrical signal is produced. This change in signal can be read wirelessly using a special external device, similar to the devices used to program most shunt valves. If the pressure inside the shunt changes, this would mean that there is likely an occlusion forming.

 

The sensor may also be able to indicate the location of the occlusion. If the pressure inside the shunt begins to increase, this would suggest that there is an occlusion on the distal end of the shunt, near the peritoneum (abdominal cavity). This is because the CSF would be unable to flow past the occlusion and out of the tubing. If the blockage were on the proximal end of the shunt, near the ventricles, less CSF would flow through the shunt, and the sensor would show a decrease in pressure.

 

In some cases, changes in pressure due to occlusions occur gradually. The researchers simulated this by pinching the shunt tubing tighter and tighter at a constant rate. While slowly pinching the tubing, they measured the incoming signals from the sensor and found that mathematical models could describe the changes in signal. If there is an occlusion forming, these models can be used to predict how much longer the shunt will function until it is completely occluded. For example, if a doctor noticed that the signal from the sensor has decreased since a patient’s last visit, they could make a rough estimate of when the sensor will indicate total blockage.

 

If this technology is successful, the sensor could be extremely helpful to doctors. The readings from the sensor could provide doctors with more information to rely on when making a diagnosis of shunt occlusion. Additionally, the ability to predict when shunt revisions may be necessary would give doctors more time to schedule a shunt revision before any changes in intracranial pressure could cause damage to brain tissue.

 

While this device is not yet ready for human trials, the technology is a great example of the progress being made towards a safer shunt. The research team conducting this study included David J. Apigo, Philip L. Bartholomew, Thomas Russell, Alokik Kanwal, Reginald C. Farrow, and Gordon A. Thomas. The full article can be found here.

 

12 Comments for : A Look at New Shunt Technology
  1. Reply

    I am 45 years old diagnosed and shunted at 1 month old. I had 25 brain surgeries and stroke due to a bleed. I haven’t had another surgery for over 17 years. I am hoping that I am done with surgeries, but I am pretty sure that I am not. I have always had a VP shunt. I also have a heart murmur. If anyone has any questions feel free to contact me.

    • nilda ward
    • August 15, 2017
    Reply

    I would like to hear from 60 something female with shunt living in New York city.
    I am very afraid. I wake up with headache every day. they found hydro when I went to emergency. Should I wait 6 months and to make up my mind about shunt?I am hoping it will go away by itself.
    would like to know who else out there is in the same boat.

    • nilda ward
    • August 15, 2017
    Reply

    I am a 70 yr old woman recently diagnosed with obstructive hydrocephalus.

    I feel extremely confused. Will I be able to go to exercise class? Swim etc..

    • Jim Filippini
    • August 10, 2017
    Reply

    What?!!! 80% likely to fail? OMG. I have and have had enough holes in my head–not to disrespect any of us blessed patients. I hope my 20 year old shunt doesn’t fail.

    • Andy
    • August 8, 2017
    Reply

    What about ETV? (endoscopic third ventriculostomy) Is that an option instead of a shunt? It sounds less invasive and more reliable…

      • Ines Nin
      • August 9, 2017
      Reply

      ETVs are only used in a sub population of the hydrocephalus community. Most hydrocephalus patients are not candidates for ETVs. Studies have shown that in some patient populations, ETVs actually have higher short term (3 month) failure rates than shunts.

      • Kate
      • September 27, 2017
      Reply

      Hey! My daughter is almost 11 weeks old and had an ETV/CPC done almost 6 weeks ago. In my understanding, this surgery is actually more invasive than shunting (our girl had a pretty hard time in the first 24 hours after surgery, including a possible seizure), and also has a relatively high chance of failure in the short term, but much better long-term outcomes in terms of reducing the need for future surgeries. I know we’re anxiously looking forward to reaching the 6 month mark, as her chances of surgery failure go down significantly after that.

    • Margaret Prue
    • August 4, 2017
    Reply

    I have a programmable Medtronic shunt..for almost 10 years.No problems!!

      • Jim Filippini
      • August 10, 2017
      Reply

      I HAD A v-p SHUNT INSTALLED ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO (I’m 68 now–no real problems ever. I guess that I’m one of the lucky ones. I wonder if low-fat, higher fiber diet has something to do with the issue. I tend to be on the high side of normal blood pressure. Maybe blood pressure has something to do with the continuing cycle of cerebrospinal fluid “movement.

    • Sally
    • July 22, 2017
    Reply

    Wow. I didn’t about 80% fail rate I have new shunt Dec 2016. Very happy with results

    • Russell
    • July 20, 2017
    Reply

    Someone like myself who has a shunt and many before my last revision is very excited about this but my questions are. Will the body want to reject a man made object, because it’s so hard for the body to accept a shunt to begin with? And for my second question. Why not build a better shunt? With a 80% fail rate, I would hope that fixing what’s broken first before adding and changing it before we can’t even answer why 80% of shunts fail from the start.

      • Ines Nin
      • August 9, 2017
      Reply

      The body does react to any man made object placed into the body, including current shunt technology. The additional components for this shunt system should not produce any worse results.

Leave a Comment

Change this in Theme Options
Change this in Theme Options