Hydrocephalus

Find Effective Treatment for Hydrocephalus at Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic

What Is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain’s ventricles. CSF provides both cushioning and support to the brain and spinal cord, as well as the transport of nutrients.

When too much cerebrospinal fluid builds up, the size of the brain’s ventricles increases, which then puts pressure on the brain. If hydrocephalus isn’t treated, that increased pressure can cause brain damage and physical and neurological impairment. 

What Causes Hydrocephalus?

The buildup of CSF is usually caused by some kind of obstruction in the brain. Rarely, it can also be caused by poor absorption of CSF, or by overproduction—when it’s created more quickly than it can be absorbed.

Hydrocephalus can be present at birth—called congenital, or be the result of some kind of trauma to the brain—called acquired.

Acquired causes of hydrocephalus are generally triggered by an obstruction, and include:

  • A premature birth that caused a brain bleed
  • An infection that caused inflammation in the brain
  • A brain tumor
  • A traumatic brain injury that caused either a bleed, damage, or inflammation

Normal pressure hydrocephalus is a specific type of hydrocephalus that can occur in older adults when the brain’s ventricles are enlarged, but there is no additional pressure found in the brain.

What Are the Symptoms of Hydrocephalus?

Symptoms of hydrocephalus vary, especially by age.

Infants and children may experience:

  • Abnormal enlargement of the head
  • Tense, bulging fontanel (in infants)
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Vision issues
  • Downward deviation of the eyes
  • Sleepiness and irritability

Adults may experience:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Cognitive issues
  • Difficulty with balance, especially when walking
  • Urinary incontinence

How Is Hydrocephalus Diagnosed?

If you have persistent symptoms and are concerned that you or someone you care about may have hydrocephalus, please visit us at Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic.

An image of the brain is needed to diagnose hydrocephalus. The most common imaging techniques used are:

By using one of these imaging techniques, the neurosurgeon is able to tell if the ventricles are enlarged, and if there is an obstruction in the brain.

How Is Hydrocephalus Treated?

Because hydrocephalus can cause significant neurological impairment, timely treatment makes an important difference in the severity of its impact and complications.

Surgery is usually required. There are two types of surgery.

  • Shunt: This is the most common treatment for hydrocephalus. The neurosurgeon places a shunt—which is a flexible tube—into the ventricle of the brain. The shunt diverts the flow of CSF into another place in the body, usually somewhere in the abdomen. The shunt is attached to a valve which maintains the CSF at a normal pressure. Some shunt systems include a magnet, which allow the neurosurgeon to adjust the pressure after surgery, if necessary.
  • Endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV): In an ETV, the neurosurgeon makes a small hole in one of the ventricles, which creates a pathway for the CSF to flow within the rest of the brain’s cavities.

Surgery is not considered a cure, and patients require lifelong follow-up and monitoring to ensure the cerebral spinal fluid is flowing appropriately and that the appropriate pressure is being maintained.

Make an Appointment

Our neurosurgeons at Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic are skilled at treating hydrocephalus.

To meet with one of our hydrocephalus specialists, make an appointment today.

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