What is Hydrocephalus?

HydrocephalusThe brain within the cranial cavity is bathed on the outside and from within with clear fluid which is secreted from vessels and taken back into the circulation. The fluid acts as protection, nourishment and also an excretory pathway for the brian. About 500 ml is produced every day. This fluid from the point of being secreted to being reabsorbed travels within the fluid spaces and the entire surface of the brain and the spinal cord. Any blockage to this path of flow of the fluid causes a pressure build up and swelling of the fluid space before the blockage and this leads to what is called hydrocephalus.This fluid pressure build up can cause pressure on the brain and cause lasting damage and therefore it is a potentially treatable cause of brain damage. The sooner this is identified, the better

Hydrocephalus is commoner in children than adults and as the child’s head is not yet fully formed, there are differences between paediatric and adult hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus can be acquired before birth(congenital), happen after birth (acquired) and happen in old age(Normal pressure hydrocephalus)

Babies who are born with hydrocephalus (congenital hydrocephalus) and adults or children who develop hydrocephalus (acquired hydrocephalus) usually require prompt treatment to reduce the pressure on their brain. If the hydrocephalus is not treated, the rise in pressure will damage the brain.

Both congenital and acquired hydrocephalus can be treated with either shunt surgery or neuroendoscopic treatment

Shunt Surgery

involves implanting a thin tube, called a shunt, in the brain. The excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain runs through the shunt to another part of the body, usually the abdomen. From here the fluid is absorbed into your blood stream. The shunt has a valve inside to control the flow of CSF and to ensure it does not drain too quickly. You can feel the valve as a lump under the skin of your scalp.

Endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) (Neuroendoscopic treatment)

An alternative procedure to shunt surgery is an endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV). ETV involves making a hole in the floor of the brain, allowing the trapped CSF to escape to the surface of the brain where it can be absorbed, instead of inserting a shunt.

An ETV is not suitable for everyone. However, it could be a possible treatment option if the build-up of CSF in your brain is the result of a blockage (obstructive hydrocephalus). The CSF will be able to drain through the hole, avoiding the blockage.