What Is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a buildup of cerebral fluid in the ventricles of the brain. This excess fluid can cause pressure on the brain and/or increase the size of the ventricles depending on the type hydrocephalus you may have. Hydrocephalus affects both men and women, of all races, equally.

Hydrocephalus can be a result of cranial surgery, a hemorrhage, a tumor, head injury, meningitis or idiopathic. However, the cause of the majority of hydrocephalus cases remains largely unknown.

What Are the Risk Factors of Hydrocephalus?

Some conditions that could increase the risk for hydrocephalus include:

  • Nervous system infections
  • Severe head injuries
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Lesions or tumors in the spinal cord or brain

Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about these risk factors.

What Are the Types of Hydrocephalus?

There are three different types of hydrocephalus:

  • Obstructive
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Idiopathic intracranial hypertension

Hydrocephalus can also be communicating or non-communicating. In communicating hydrocephalus, the cerebrospinal fluid is not reabsorbed normally or there is increase in production of cerebrospinal fluid that can lead to increase in the size of the ventricles. However, the fluid can still flow through.

Non-communicating hydrocephalus, sometimes referred to as obstructive hydrocephalus, happens when the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is blocked in one or more of the passages that connect the ventricles.

Sometimes the cause is unknown, and you can have idiopathic intracranial hypertension with normal or small ventricles and increased intracranial pressure.

What Are the Symptoms of Hydrocephalus?

The symptoms can vary, but common symptoms of hydrocephalus include:

  • Lethargy
  • Impaired vision
  • Headache
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Decline in memory, concentration or other skills that may affect job performance
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Difficulty walking, often described as shuffling
  • Poor coordination
  • Loss of thinking or other reasoning skills

Hydrocephalus Treatment and Support

Currently, there is no known cure or prevention method for hydrocephalus. Early detection and treatment of hydrocephalus can help patients lead full and active lives.  After diagnosis, there are surgical options for treatment.

Shunt System: A shunt system is the most common hydrocephalus treatment. For this treatment, a shunt (flexible tube) is placed into the brain’s ventricular system. This shunt helps maintain cerebrospinal fluid at normal levels and redirects the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to another region of the body where it can be absorbed.

Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV): An ETV uses an endoscope to puncture a membrane in the brain’s third ventricle to allow fluid to flow. This procedure is a good alternative to shunting, especially for those with obstructive hydrocephalus.

If you or a family member is diagnosed with hydrocephalus, know that the expert staff at Banner Health are here to help at every stage.