How common is CSF leak after shunt surgery?

Q. Is it possible to have CSF leak after shunt surgery for hydrocephalus?

Answered by
Dr. Rahul Pramod Patil
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on Sep 27, 2020 and last reviewed on: Jun 29, 2023

Hello doctor,

My sister-in-law have surgery shunt in brain for hydrocephalus conditon before two weeks and she was unconcious. But now they suggest surgery for CSF (Cerebrospinal Fluid) leak. We are very confused what should we do? Is it possible to have CSF leak after shunt surgery? Kindly revert soon.


Hello, Welcome to

I feel sorry for all the pain your sister in law is going through. Hydrocephalus is a difficult problem to treat. The complication which are seen your sister in law case are very common in these type of patients. I would suggest you to follow your doctors (neurosurgeon) advice, as the doctor seems to follow a standard protocol for the treatment of this commonly occurring problem with shunt surgery. Remember few key steps in treatment are:- CSF(Cerebrospinal Fluid) diversion flow to reduce intracranial tension (option is Chhabra shunt (cheap and good quality), pressure regulator shunt (costly), complications with both are the same. If the shunt system is exposed or there is CSF leak then we need to change the entire shunt system as the bacterial growth on shunt can directly infect the brain and cause life threatening brain infection, further complicating the case. Since these patients are emasculated (thin build and weak) we can use a head ring of cotton to support the head and avoid pressure on the shunt system and suture sites on the scalp. Post operative early mobilization in the form of frequent position changes in bed, making patients sit in chairs, etc. along with good nutrition (high protein diet). Try to find out the cause of hydrocephalus and treat it as the patient's general condition improves. Remember the complication occurring in your sisters case is unfortunate but it is very frequently seen. What is important that you act quickly to cover the first two steps of the treatment plan.

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