Hydrocephalus – Symptoms & Treatment Options


Hydrocephalus – Symptoms & Treatment Options

What are the symptoms of Hydrocephalus?

What are the non-surgical treatment options?

What are the surgical treatment options?

Recovery After surgery

The term is derived from Greek terms meaning water on the brain. People suffering from hydrocephalus actually have an excess of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. CSF is a clear liquid substance that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Its primary function is to act as cushion and lubrication; to prevent or minimize trauma to the brain in case of sudden movement; and to stabilize the cranium and the spine by compensating for any changes in the volume of blood in the cranium. It also acts as a way to get nutrients to the brain and remove any waste.

Normally, the CSF passes through the spaces of the brain. These spaces are called ventricles. There are four of them, connected by small passages. The fluid runs through all of the ventricles then is flushed down the cisterns, which act as reservoirs. The cisterns are closed spaces found at the base of the brain. CSF passes and bathes all the paths and surfaces of the brain and the spinal cord, then absorbed back into the bloodstream.

CSF is constantly produced by the body. If there is a problem in the absorption, production, or flushing out of the fluid, there will be too much of it in the brain. The accumulation pushes against the ventricles and widens them. This puts too much pressure on the brain tissues.

Congenital hydrocephalus can happen because of genetic abnormalities or events that happened during the development of the fetus. Acquired hydrocephalus occurs from the birth and afterward. This version of the disorder can happen to anyone. It may also be the result of another disease or injury.

There are also different classifications of the disorder based on why there is too much CSF in the brain. Obstructive or non-communicating hydrocephalus occurs when there is an obstruction on one of the tunnels connecting the brain’s ventricles. An example of this is aqueductal stenosis. This is one of the most common causes of hydrocephalus. The aqueduct of Sylvius, situated between the third and fourth ventricles, becomes too narrow to allow CSF to pass through. Another hydrocephalus classification is called communicating. In this case, the CSF is able to flow freely through all of the ventricles, but it is unable to exit the brain.

There are two other types of hydrocephalus that don’t fit in these classifications and are more common among adults. Hydrocephalus ex-vacuo is often caused by brain damaged due to a stroke or accident. If you have this, your brain can actually shrink.

Normal pressure hydrocephalus can happen to anyone, but they are more likely to occur in aging brains. This form of the disorder can be caused by head trauma, tumor, infection, a subarachnoid hemorrhage or head trauma. There are cases wherein normal pressure hydrocephalus happened without any discernible cause and the CSF level appears normal in exams if not conducted for a prolonged period.

One in every five hundred children has hydrocephalus. It can be due to inherited genetic problems (like a defect in the aqueduct) or developmental disorders (like encephalocele, spina bifida, and other associated with neural tube defects). It can also be due to meningitis, tumors, traumatic head injury, intraventricular hemorrhage and other complications of a premature birth. A subarachnoid hemorrhage that eliminates the passage to the cisterns or block the flow of CSF from the ventricles to the cisterns can also cause hydrocephalus.