What is it?

Hydrocephalus is a condition in which there is an accumulation of excessive fluids in the ventricular system of the brain. The fluid build up results in enlargement of the ventricles and causes pressure on the brain, which can lead to damage of brain tissue and neurological symptoms. Hydrocephalus is more common in infants and older people, though it can occur at any age.There are many causes for hydrocephalus, and they all share the same mechanism- an imbalance between how much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced and how much is absorbed into the bloodstream. Excess CSF may occur due to obstruction, poor absorption or overproduction which rarely happens. If hydrocephalus has progressed by the time of birth, complications may include intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.

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Signs & symptoms

Hydrocephalus symptoms may vary, depending on the patient’s age and the severity of the intracranial pressure. Symptoms usually include headache, nausea, vomiting, double or blurred vision, sleepiness and lethargy. Infants may present with a large head, rapidly increase in the size of the head, a bulging fontanel, poor feeding, sunsetting of the eyes, poor growth, motor and sensory deficits. For older children, other symptoms may include seizure, urinary incontinence, unstable balance, personality changes, decline in school performance and other activities. Older people may have loss of bladder control or frequent urge to urinate, difficulty walking, poor coordination.

Diagnosis

Hydrocephalus is diagnosed upon findings in medical history and physical examination, including neurological exam. Then, brain imaging may be perdomes. Ultrasound is relevant only for babies, whose fontanel is still open. Otherwise, an MRI or a brain CT will be used for diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment of hydrocephalus is surgical. A surgical insertion of a shunt, which is a drainage system, is the most common treatment. A long, flexible tube is inserted to the ventricles, then it is tunneled under the skin to a body part where the fluid can be absorbed easier, usually the peritoneum. Endoscopic third ventriculostomy is another surgical procedure that may help, by making a hole in the bottom of the ventricle or between the ventricles.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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