Innovating Toward a Cure: Smart Shunt Technology for Hydrocephalus

Shunts for hydrocephalus require an average of about 10 revisions during the patient’s lifetime. New innovations at CHOC aim to revolutionize shunt design to give patients more control in the management of this condition.

For the past few years, Dr. Michael Muhonen, pediatric neurosurgeon at CHOC, has been developing and refining a “smart shunt,” which allows families of children with hydrocephalus to measure intracranial pressure at home or determine if the shunt is failing. The shunt has a wireless sensor that communicates with a family’s smartphone-like device when held near their child’s head. If the sensor determines the pressure is too low, a magnet is used to manipulate the pressure. Another device within the valve allows the parent to potentially disocclude the shunt catheter if it’s plugged.

Dr. Michael Muhonen, pediatric neurosurgeon at CHOC

The technology received FDA approval last year, and it should be commercially available within one year.

“I have families who won’t go more than a few hours away from their pediatric neurosurgeon because of fear. If the shunt plugs up, what are they going to do?” Dr. Muhonen says. “Every neurosurgeon who treats hydrocephalus has a goal to make a simplified system for both the families and the doctor, and a system that saves future surgeries down the road. Having wireless technology so you can measure pressure with your smartphone would accomplish that. I’ll keep working on this until it happens.”

Smarter technology would also result in far fewer operations for patients.

“Some patients come in regularly with headaches, failures, broken and fractured shunts or calcium on the tubing; we follow them regularly and the chronically shunted patient has too many operations,” Dr. Muhonen says. “I am excited about the prospects that this new technology has to offer to many patients with hydrocephalus.”

The supportive culture at the CHOC Neuroscience Institute has aided Dr. Muhonen’s research and advancement of wireless technology in shunts.

“CHOC has been very supportive in morphing into a hospital that supports research and cure, rather than a purely clinical children’s hospital,” Dr. Muhonen says. “We’re also fortunate to have donors in the community who want to help. Together, we’re able to strengthen our focus on being a leading research and academic institution.”

Our Care and Commitment to Children Has Been Recognized

CHOC Hospital was named one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report in its 2020-21 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings and ranked in the neurology/neurosurgery specialty.

USNWR Neurology and Neurosurgery award

Learn how CHOC’s neuroscience expertise, coordinated care, innovative programs and specialized treatments preserve childhood for children in Orange County, Calif., and beyond.

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CHOC Experts to Speak at International Hydrocephalus Conference

Two CHOC pediatric neurology experts will speak at an upcoming conference featuring the latest education on hydrocephalus.

Including internationally recognized medical professionals and researchers, HA Connect – National Conference on Hydrocephalus, held June 28-30 in Newport Beach, will address the medical, educational and social complexities of living with hydrocephalus through interactive discussions, workshops and hands-on exhibits.  Over 500 people are expected to attend the international conference.

Dr. Michael Muhonen

Dr. Michael Muhonen, board-certified neurosurgeon, division chief of neurosurgery and medical director, CHOC Neuroscience Institute, will present a lecture on the anatomy of the brain, with a focus on the cerebral ventricles, cerebral spinal fluid physiology and hydrocephalus.

On the second day of the conference, Dr. Muhonen and Dr. Anjalee Galion, board-certified pediatric neurologist and associate director of the CHOC Sleep Lab, will present on headaches and current management. Their lectures will be specifically focused on the etilogy and treatment of headaches in patients with hydrocephalus, pseudotumor cerebrii, and other brain pathology.

Dr. Anjalee Galion

All CHOC professionals and employees are invited to attend.  The CHOC Neuroscience Institute is offering assistance with the cost of registration. For details, email Rhonda Long, director, CHOC Neuroscience Institute at

Learn more about HA Connect – 2018 National Conference on Hydrocephalus.

Dr. Michael Muhonen Discusses Dermoid Cysts

A dermoid cyst is a small bump that is present at birth, and is typically found near a child’s head, Dr. Michael Muhonen, director of neurosurgery and medical director of the CHOC Neuroscience Institute, tells “American Health Journal.”

These cysts continue to grow and enlarge with time, and treatment is always surgical, says Dr. Muhonen.

Learn more about diagnosis and treatment of dermoid cysts in “American Health Journal,” a television program that airs on PBS and other national network affiliates that reach more than 30 million households.

Each 30-minute episode features six segments with a diverse range of medical specialists discussing a full spectrum of health topics. For more information, visit

Michael Muhonen M.D., earned his medical degree and completed his residency at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. His clinical interests include hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, brain tumors, Moyamoya disease and vascular malformations of the brain.

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