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Home >> Specialities >> Neurosciences >> Hydrocephalus


Hydrocephalus is a neurological condition characterized by an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain's ventricles. This buildup exerts pressure on the brain tissue, potentially leading to a range of symptoms and complications. Understanding the causes, types, and treatment options for hydrocephalus is essential in providing effective care for those affected by this condition.

Types of Hydrocephalus

  • Communicating Hydrocephalus: In this type, there is a disruption in the absorption or circulation of CSF, leading to an increase in its volume. This can be due to factors such as subarachnoid hemorrhage, meningitis, or other conditions that affect the flow of CSF within the brain.
  • Non-Communicating (Obstructive) Hydrocephalus: Non-communicating hydrocephalus is characterized by an obstruction that hinders the flow of CSF between the ventricles. This obstruction can occur within the ventricular system itself or in the pathways leading out of the ventricles.
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH): NPH is a unique form of hydrocephalus characterized by enlarged ventricles, but with normal CSF pressure. It often occurs in older adults and is associated with cognitive impairment, difficulty walking, and urinary incontinence.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Congenital Hydrocephalus: Congenital hydrocephalus is present at birth and can result from genetic abnormalities, developmental disorders, or maternal infections during pregnancy.
  • Acquired Hydrocephalus: Infections: Meningitis, which leads to inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, can disrupt CSF circulation, causing hydrocephalus.
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage: Bleeding within the brain, whether due to trauma, aneurysm rupture, or other causes, can lead to obstructive hydrocephalus.
  • Tumors: Brain tumors can obstruct CSF flow, leading to non-communicating hydrocephalus.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Severe head injuries can result in the obstruction of CSF pathways or disrupt the absorption of CSF, causing hydrocephalus.

The symptoms of hydrocephalus can vary depending on the age of the individual and the underlying cause. In infants, symptoms may include an enlarged head, rapid head growth, bulging fontanelle (soft spot), vomiting, and irritability. In older children and adults, symptoms can encompass headaches, nausea, vomiting, vision problems, difficulty walking, and cognitive impairment.


  • Imaging Studies:
  • CT Scan: Computed tomography scans are used to visualize the brain's ventricular system and detect abnormalities in CSF flow.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging provides detailed images of the brain, allowing for a comprehensive evaluation of CSF circulation and any potential obstructions.


  • Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap)

Analyzing the CSF obtained through a lumbar puncture can help determine if there are any abnormalities in pressure, cell count, or chemical composition.


  • Shunt Placement: A common treatment for hydrocephalus involves surgically implanting a shunt. This is a thin tube that diverts excess CSF from the brain's ventricles to another part of the body (such as the abdominal cavity), where it can be absorbed.
  • Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV): In select cases, an ETV may be performed. This procedure creates a new pathway for CSF to flow within the brain, bypassing any obstructions.
  • Monitoring and Adjustments: Individuals with shunts require regular follow-up appointments to monitor the function of the shunt. Adjustments or replacements may be necessary over time.

Hydrocephalus presents a complex challenge in neurology, involving the abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial in managing this condition and preventing potential complications. With advancements in medical technology and surgical techniques, individuals affected by hydrocephalus can lead fulfilling lives with proper care and support.

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