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What Is a Ventriculostomy?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2014
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A ventriculostomy involves the placement of a tube or catheter into fluid-filled spaces within the brain known as the ventricles. The tube typically goes into the part of the brain that contains the ventricles through a hole made in the top of the head. This procedure may also be known as installing a ventriculostomy catheter. Ventriculostomies are commonly used to give medications, measure pressure in the head, and to drain fluid from the brain.

Ventriculostomy placement may be done in the operating room or at the patient's bedside. It is typically a short procedure. The patient will generally be given some type of anesthesia during the placement. Prior to the procedure, only the portion of the head in which the catheter will be placed is typically shaved. Medication for pain may be given to the patient afterward for any mild discomfort.

There are general reasons for undergoing this procedure. One of these reasons can be to administer medication. If an individual is suffering from cancer of the brain or infections that may affect the nervous system, it may be necessary to undergo this procedure. When used as a method to administer medicine, the medication goes directly into the brain. Some patients may only need to keep the catheter in for a short period of time, while others may need to receive medications this way over an extended period or permanently.

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Injuries to the brain resulting from head traumas may result in an increase of intracranial pressure. This increase of pressure in the head could damage the nervous system. A ventriculostomy is one procedure commonly used to measure intracranial pressure. Some other common causes for an increase of pressure in the head can be due to bleeding in the brain as well as swelling of the brain.

Excessive fluid may be removed from the brain through a ventriculostomy drain. Brain surgeries and injuries to the brain are some common reasons for hydrocephalus. This condition refers to an abnormal build-up of cerebrospinal fluid within the ventricles located in the brain. Generally, cerebrospinal fluid flows consistently within the brain. Some functions of the fluid are to regulate the flow of blood through the brain and to act as a cushion to protect the brain from injury.

Symptoms of hydrocephalus can vary according to age. Adults with the condition may experience poor coordination, blurry vision, and vomiting. The elderly may experience problems walking and mental impairment. The condition can also be a birth defect. In infants, hydrocephalus symptoms may include seizures, poor feeding, and an enlarged head.

Endoscopic ventriculostomy is a different method of performing ventriculostomies. In this endoscopic method, there are no catheters left in the brain. A minimal hole is made in the brain's third ventricle. The purpose of this precise procedure is to divert excessive cerebrospinal fluid to keep it from building up. Endoscopic third ventriculostomy is another common name for this procedure.

A physician typically will aid the patient in providing ventriculostomy care. Fluids obtained from the procedure will be tested regularly. Antibiotics are generally given to individuals undergoing ventriculostomies to prevent infection. It is important to have a great understanding of this procedure before it takes place. Patients should express any questions and concerns with the supervising doctor both before and after having this procedure done.

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