Marvellous medicine

Davies and Partners is supporting – Hydrocephalus Awareness Week 6-12 March 2023

Did you know that Roald Dahl was pivotal in inventing a shunt? 

Roald Dahl’s son Theo developed hydrocephalus after being hit by a car in New York. He had a shunt put in but it blocked frequently causing headaches, nausea and temporary blindness. The shunts then were plastic and sterilisation was difficult. They also became easily blocked by debris in the ventricle of the brain. 


Dahl felt that there had to be a better design for a shunt valve and set about developing one with his friend and hydraulic engineer Stanley Wade and a neurosurgeon, Kenneth Till. In 1962, the Wade-Dahl-Till valve was rolled out. 


The Wade-Dahl-Till valve was easier to sterilise than the plastic ones in use and during the 1960s was successfully used on over 3,000 patients. It only stopped being used when the shunt technology became more advanced. 


Roald Dahl and his co-inventors made no money from their shunt valve – they provided it free of use to the NHS


Katherine Pearce, Head of Medical Negligence, Bristol

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