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Over the 25 years I have represented patients injured by medical error at Anapol Schwartz, we have handle a number of cases involving injuries due to the failure to recognize, diagnosis and timely treat malfunctioning ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunts. The “typical” care involves the surgical placement of a VP shunt in a child who has developed hydrocephalus (a build up of cerebrospinal (CSF) fluid in the skull which can cause pressure on the brain). Below is a link to a diagram of a shunt.

After the placement of the shunt, the patient is closely monitored for signs and symptoms that the shunt is working properly. There are a number of signs of a malfunctioning shunt:

  • HEADACHE
  • VOMITING
  • FEVER
  • IRRITABILITY AND PERSONALITY CHANGES
  • DETERIORATION IN PERFORMANCE – school work, gait, balance, and concentration
  • LETHARGY AND DROWSINESS
  • DIZZINESS
  • VISION DISTURBANCES
  • SEIZURES

The most common symptom of shunt malfunction is recurrent headaches. However, any of the above symptoms should prompt evaluation by the treating physicians. In recent a case where there was a delay in treatment of a malfunctioning shunt, the patient’s healthcare providers recognized that her headaches and vomiting were signs of shunt malfunction, but delayed in having her seen by a neurosurgeon. The delay resulted in her developing seizures which caused her to suffer permanent brain injury.

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