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Flying with a shunt?

My son has a shunt sinse 2006. He got diagnosed with a brain tumor. We are from Michigan and we are going in Florida throu MAF , it's his wish to go to Disney World. My fear and question is : Is he going to be ok to travel with an aeroplane?

Thank u .

This discussion is related to VENTRICULOPERITONEAL SHUNT.
5 Responses
Avatar universal
Hi there.

The changes in pressures due to air flight should not have a detrimental effect on fluid compartments such as the brain and the shunt.  This would more likely to have an effect on air compartments such as the ears and sinuses.  Given this theoretical knowledge, there seems to be no contra-indication to air flight in these situations.  However, I still recommend you ask his doctors/neurologist regarding this before you push through.

Happy vacation and I hope your son enjoys this very much.  Regards and God bless.
Avatar universal
I've flown four times over the last two months and each time ended up with a busting headache, painful eyes, and nausea.  All things that I experience in shunt malfunction.  The first time it happened, I thought it was because I had an extremely long day and was overly tired.  But, I also wear an insulin pump and the pump started beeping and it was clogged.  My pump never clogs.  Then it dawned on me that if my insulin pump clogged than my shunt could have also clogged, so, I pumped my shunt a few times and within minutes my symptoms started to ease up.  I waited a few minutes and pumped it again a few times and my symptoms disappeared.  This has happened all four times with shunt malfunction symptoms and with my insulin pump clogging.  So, for me, flying affects both my shunt and insulin pump.    
144586 tn?1284669764
You pose an interesting question.

Generally the problems are encountered when the flight engineer does not set the appropriate presurization controls before takeoff. This is a complex procedure and some flight engineers have attention deficit disorder.

The New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 357: 18-27 July 5, 2007) determined that at a canin pressure equivelant to 8,000 ft. there was only a 4.4 % reduction in oxygen saturation in the blood. FAA regulations mandate the altitude be kept below 10,000 ft. MSL.

The reason jetliners are not pressurized to lower levels is because it decreases the life of the aircraft.

Boeing Corporation, with the introduction of the 757, developed a structure designed to be pressurized at 6,000 ft MSL, in comparison with other airliners, which are pressurized to 8,000.  So modern Boeings are a bit more friendly.

I do not doubt that your insulin pump had problems, but there is no logical reason for this to related to cabin pressure. Denver, after all is at 5,280 feet MSL and we don't have many instances reported to the FDA about insulin pump failures in Denver.

There is a problem with reduced blood circulation, particuliarly with anti-terror measures restricting passengers from romping about, as they did in the good old days.

Ankle sircles, feet pumping, knee lifts, knee to chest movements, foward and overhead flexes should solve this problem without causing the air marshal to pay special attention to you.

There should be no contraindication to flight, although you mioght select an airline that flies equipment that is pressurized to 6,000 MSL.

Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy helps during climb and descent.

Avatar universal
My son , who is now 18, had "subdural efusion" (sp) & had a shunt put in at 4 months, replaced that with a pressure release one. Has never had any problems,knock on wood, since. Played tackle in football & wrestled, & baseball. He will be flying for the 1st time & I am wondering if I should be concerned?
15314229 tn?1439918487
I have a spitz-holter shunt in situ for acquired hydrocephalus following a ruptured cerebral aneurysm at age 16 in 1970. This has required numerous revisions since. I am a UK  citizen now living in Spain, and due to some worries about the neurosurgical facilities here and my fractured Spanish, I am wondering whether it would be safe to fly back to the UK at 33000 feet if the shunt was blocked at the time of the flight. Does anyone know please?
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