checking the functioning of an intracranial shunt

Last reviewed 04/2022

An intracranial shunt will be visible as a subcutaneous lump on the patient's head and will be sited behind the patient's ear. To test functioning of the shunt the examiner applies pressure to the lump.

The shunt is functioning if the lump depresses and then return to its previous shape.

The shunt is functioning abnormally if either:

  • it does not return to its previous shape - indicating a blockage proximal to the shunt, or
  • will not depress - indicating a blockage distal or within the shunt

Note that there are very many varieties of shunts, and if in doubt a second opinion from someone who may know the specific make of shunt can be helpful.