The University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington) researchers have partnered with the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) to build a prototype for an implantable in-line shunt flow monitoring system that will deliver both on-demand and continuous readings of hydrocephalus.
Characterised by an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in cavities of the brain, hydrocephalus can cause pressure inside the skull that can lead to convulsions, tunnel vision, blindness, balance and co-ordination issues, mental disability and even death, if untreated.
A cerebral shunt or catheter is used to drain excess fluid from the brain, but often can become blocked, infected or outgrown.
The project is being pursued under a $100,000 grant from the Texas Medical Research Collaborative, and is likely to lead to better treatment, especially in infants and children who account for a large proportion of shunt operations every year.
By monitoring flow of fluids and catheter malfunctions on-demand, the new shunt system will try to prevent breakdowns, and is also capable of helping neurosurgeons better understand shunt functions such as whether issues related to malfunction are due to flow or an obstruction.
Additional benefits of the system include an ability to diagnose in a hospital, outpatient setting or at home in real-time to allow for earlier detection.
The in-line shunt flow monitoring system also provides research platforms for other biomedical applications, including cardiovascular disease treatment and the functional status of artificial organs.
Approximately 75,000 shunt operations per year are beinng performed on infants and children.
According to National Institutes of Health, a patient experiences a relatively high rate of complications as late as 17 years after initial placement of the device.
Image: The implantable in-line shunt flow monitoring system is likely to result in better treatment of hydrocephalus in infants and children. Photo: courtesy of University of Rochester.