Derek’s Story: A Landmark Procedure

Derek Young looked like any other baby when he was born in February 1994. But 3-1/2 months later, his mother Pamela noticed his head was slowly getting larger. Doctors diagnosed hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain, and placed a shunt to drain the fluid. Fast forward 10 years when Derek needed a shunt revision. He was treated at the CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute and released.

CHOC Children's Neuroscience Institute

However, six months later, Derek returned to CHOC with what appeared to be a failure of the original shunt. Neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Muhonen decided to perform a pioneering procedure called a third ventriculostomy in which he made a tiny hole in the wall of the third ventricle of the brain — allowing movement of fluid out of the blocked ventricle.

As a result of this extraordinary surgery, Derek no longer required a shunt nor did he or his mother need to live in constant fear of shunt failure. An avid swimmer, this procedure allowed him to continue to pursue his passion, including completing a Catalina-to-Long-Beach swim to raise money for CHOC.

Derek is now a 6’2” 20-year-old junior at Northern Arizona University studying to be an emergency room or intensive care unit nurse, a career directly inspired from his experience with CHOC. From the compassionate, skilled nurses who made him laugh to the expert, encouraging doctors who described the procedure in terms he could understand, Derek’s experience with CHOC was life-changing.

Learn more about CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute.

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Magnet Magic

Using magnets to treat babies and kids with hydrocephalus sounds like something from a science-fiction movie, but it’s happening here at CHOC Children’s.

Hydrocephalus (or water on the brain) is a condition where there is a lack of absorption, blockage of flow, or overproduction of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the brain.  This can lead to dangerous buildup of fluid, increasing pressure inside of the head.

Some hydrocephalus patients need surgery, which usually involves placing a shunt into the child’s head to help drain the extra fluid from around the brain.

CHOC neurosurgeon Michael Muhonen, MD, was a primary investigator for clinical trials of Medtronic’s Strata Valve—part of a shunt system now being used worldwide to treat hydrocephalus.

Dr. Muhonen

Once surgically implanted in the brain, the settings on adjustable valves like Strata can be easily customized as the patient grows and changes. Dr. Muhonen uses a special magnet to change pressure settings in the shunt from outside the head. It’s noninvasive and totally pain-free.

Want to learn more about hydrocephalous and treatment options? Visit the CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute web site.

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