Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus results when the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is disrupted—for example, when a channel between ventricles becomes narrowed or when the body doesn't properly absorb this fluid.

Symptoms

In infants: An unusually large head; a rapid increase in the size of the head; a bulging soft spot" on the top of the head; vomiting, sleepiness, irritability, seizures, eyes fixed downward, developmental delay.

In older children and adults: Headache followed by vomiting, nausea, blurred or double vision, eyes fixed downward, problems with balance or coordination, sluggishness or lack of energy, slowing or regression of development, memory loss, confusion, urinary incontinence, irritability, changes in personality.

Normal pressure hydrocephalus usually occurs in older people. The classic symptoms are gait impairments, decreased memory, and urinary incontinence.

About this Condition

The brain is the consistency of gelatin, and it floats in a bath of cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid also fills large open structures, called ventricles, that lie deep inside the brain. The fluid-filled ventricles help keep the brain buoyant and cushioned.

ACSN - Brain condition - Hydrocephalus

Cerebrospinal fluid flows through the ventricles by way of interconnecting channels. The fluid eventually flows into closed spaces between the brain and skull, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Keeping the production, flow and absorption of cerebrospinal fluid in balance is important to maintaining normal pressure inside the skull. Hydrocephalus results when the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is disrupted—for example, when a channel between ventricles becomes narrowed or when the body doesn't properly absorb this fluid.

Normal pressure hydrocephalus is a condition where the pressure in the head is mildly elevated.  It usually occurs in older people.

 

 

This content is for your general education only. See your doctor for a professional diagnosis and to discuss an appropriate treatment plan.

Conservative Treatments

Surgery

Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt

The most common treatment for hydrocephalus is the surgical insertion of a drainage system, called a shunt. It consists of a long flexible tube with a valve that keeps fluid from the brain flowing in the right direction and at the proper rate. One end of the tubing is usually placed in one of the brain's ventricles. The tubing is then tunneled under the skin to another part of the body where the excess cerebrospinal fluid can be more easily absorbed, such as the abdomen, a chamber in the heart, or the pleural space near the lungs.

People who have hydrocephalus usually need a shunt system for the rest of their lives, so for a child, additional surgeries may be needed to insert longer tubing to match growth. Revisions to the shunt also may be needed if the tubing becomes blocked or infected.

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Third Ventriculostomy

A nice, modern alternative to a shunt is the third ventriculostomy.  This is a procedure using a small scope inserted through a 1 inch scalp incision that isused to open a blocked channel in the ventricular system or to create an alternative route to divert the cerebral spinal fluid.  After this minimally invasive procedure, a shunt is usualy no longer needed.

Please keep in mind that all treatments and outcomes are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary. Complications, such as infection, blood loss, and bowel or bladder problems are some of the potential adverse risks of surgery. Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse events, clinical results and other important medical information.