Introduction Hydrocephalus is a neurological disorder caused by excessive accumulation of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain. It can be treated by diverting the extra fluid to different parts of the body using a device called a shunt. This paper reviews different shunt devices that are used for this purpose. Areas covered Shunts have high failure rates either due to infection or mechanical failure, therefore there is still ongoing work to address these two main handicaps. They require additional devices for performance assessment. Here, the paper also reviews different approaches for assessing shunt limitations. Moreover, future prospects are also discussed. Expert opinion This study shows that shunt devices still remain an important treatment option for hydrocephalus. However, further efforts are required to design more advanced shunts, to eliminate high failure rates in clinical use. Sophisticated sensor systems that can accurately detect and regulate changes in CSF drainage to optimize drainage for individual needs. Moreover, shunt infection problem is still present despite recent improvements such as antibiotic impregnated catheters.