Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.Learn More
If too much fluid builds up in your child's head, this creates pressure that can be harmful, even life-threatening. External ventricular drains or external shunts are used for urgent removal of extra fluid from the brain to reduce the pressure. These drains are most often used for only a short amount of time.
External ventricular drains are tubes that a doctor places in a part of your child's brain, called the ventricle, to remove extra fluid.
The doctor may place a long tunneled external ventricular drain. In this type of drain, the tube runs under the skin for a longer distance (tunneled). The tube comes out of the chest or stomach area (abdomen), exiting into a collection bag.
If your child has an external (externalized) shunt, one end of the tube lies near the brain, and the other exits outside the body. The fluid goes into a collection bag.
Your child might need an external drain or shunt if they have:
If your child's bag has a system, their head and shunt system must stay in the correct position because:
Your doctor will pick the best position for your child's head and the shunt system. The nurse will:
Hospital staff will usually put a sign on the door to remind you not to move your child until you check with a nurse.
Call the nurse if:
Here are the warning signs that your child's external shunt is not working correctly.
Bacteria (germs) can cause infection. The shunt may stop working if infected. Infection can cause pressure to rise and be life-threatening.
Watch for these signs of shunt infection:
See together.stjude.org for more information on the related topic Ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt.
Reviewed: September 2022