Hydrocephalus, also called water in the brain, is a condition where there is an abnormal build-up of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) in the cavities (ventricles) of the brain. The build-up is often caused by an obstruction that prevents proper fluid drainage. The build-up is often caused by an obstruction that prevents proper fluid drainage.
In hydrocephalus, the build-up of CSF can raise pressure inside the skull, which squashes surrounding the brain tissue.
In some cases, this can cause the head to steadily grow in size, convulsions, and brain damage. Hydrocephalus can be fatal if left untreated.
Other symptoms include headache, vomiting, blurred vision, cognitive problems and walking difficulties.
The brain produces about 1 pint of CSF each day, and old CSF is absorbed into the blood vessels. If the process of producing and removing CSF is disturbed, CSF can accumulate, causing hydrocephalus. Read More
Symptoms of congenital hydrocephalus
- breathing difficulties
- arm and leg muscles may be stiff and prone to contractions
- some developmental stages may be delayed, such as sitting up or crawling
- the fontanelle, the soft spot on the top of the head, is tense and bulges outward
- irritability, drowsiness or both
- unwillingness to bend or move the neck or head
- poor feeding
- the head seems larger than it should be
- the scalp is thin and shiny and there may be visible veins on the scalp
- pupils of the eyes may be close to the bottom of the eyelid, sometimes known as “the setting sun”
- there may be a high-pitched cry
- possible seizures
- Too much CSF is produced.
- One of the ventricles in the brain is blocked or narrowed, stopping or restricting the flow of CSF, so that it cannot leave the brain.
- CSF cannot filter into the bloodstream.
Hydrocephalus requires urgent treatment to reduce the pressure on the brain; otherwise, there is a serious risk of damage to the brainstem, which regulates functions such as our breathing and heartbeat.
A shunt is the surgical insertion of a drainage system. A catheter (a thin tube with a valve) is placed in the brain to drain away excess fluid from the brain into another part of the body, such as the abdomen, the chest cavity, or a chamber of the heart. Usually, this is all that is needed, and no further treatment is required.
Patients with hydrocephalus will usually need to have a shunt system in place for the rest of their lives. If the shunt is placed in a child, additional surgeries may be needed to insert longer tubing as they grow.
Ventriculostomy – the surgeon makes a hole in the bottom of a ventricle so that the excess fluid flows towards the base of the brain. Normal absorption occurs at the base of the brain. This procedure is sometimes performed when the flow of fluids between ventricles is obstructed. Read More