Surgery to drain fluid from the brain

Different types of surgery can be used to drain fluid from the brain, to relieve raised intracranial pressure.

Surgery to relieve pressure

Sometimes a brain tumour can block the flow of fluid (CSF) around the brain. This can cause pressure to build up and cause symptoms. This is called raised intracranial pressure. Different types of surgery can be used to drain fluid from the brain and relieve pressure.

The types of surgery include:

  • a brain shunt
  • an endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV)
  • ommaya reservoir.

Brain shunt

To reduce the pressure, some people have a small operation to place a long, thin tube called a shunt into the brain. The shunt lets some of the fluid drain from the brain to another area of the body. It may make you feel better by reducing some of your symptoms.

You cannot see the shunt from outside the body. But you may be able to feel it under the skin behind your ear. Your surgeon will explain what to expect.

Endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV)

Sometimes the surgeon can do an operation called endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) instead of placing a shunt. They use keyhole (endoscopic) surgery to make a small hole in the lining of the ventricles in the brain. This lets fluid move past the blockage and reduces the pressure on the brain.

Ommaya reservoir

If a tumour has a fluid-filled part (called a cyst), you may have an ommaya reservoir placed into the brain instead of a shunt. This is a small tube and disc. The tube is placed in or near the tumour and the disc sits under the skin of the scalp.

After the operation, if pressure builds up, your doctor can put a small needle through the skin into the disc and drain some fluid from the tumour.

We have more information about surgery for brain tumours.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 October 2019
Next review: 01 October 2021

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

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