The MIT Braintrust Center for Neurological Disorder Information
Hydrocephalus (Greek roots: hydro (water), cephalus (head)), is a condition
involving the abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in cavities
of the brain known as ventricles. CSF is normally produced in the ventricles
and circulates through the ventricular systems until it is absorbed in
the bloodstream. The fluid supplies nutrients and proteins to the brain
and carries waste tissues away from brain cells.
Part 1: General Information
Part 2: Self-Help
Part 3: Further Information
I. General Information
A patient with hydrocephalus cannot absorb CSF as quickly as his or her
brain produces the fluid. A build-up of CSF results, increasing pressure
in the head as the ventricles enlarge. Genetic and environmental factors
are thought to contribute to the condition when it is present at birth
(congenital hydrocephalus). Other patients often acquire the disease after
an obstruction of the cerebral aqueduct (aqueductal stenosis), which can
result from spina bifida, intraventricular hemorrhage, meningitis, head
trauma, tumors and cysts.
Adults with hydrocephalus may experience nausea and vomiting, migraine-like
headaches, lethargy, difficulty waking or staying awake, seizures, visual
impairment, irritability, or tiredness. Adults generally acquire one of
two forms of hydrocephalus: hydrocephalus ex-vacuo or normal pressure hydrocephalus
(NPH). Hydrocephalus ex-vacuo can accompany brain damage caused by stroke
or injury. It can result in brain shrinkage, particularly in individuals
with Alzheimer's disease. NPH, on the other hand, results from gradual
blockage of the CSF draining pathways in the brain. Although the ventricles
enlarge during NPH, the pressure of theCSF remains within normal range.
Memory loss (dementia), gait disorder, urinary incontinence and a general
slowing of activity are all symptoms of NPH.
Although, to date, there is no way to prevent or cure hydrocephalus,
surgical insertion of a shunt, or flexible tube, into the ventricular system
of the brain can diverts the flow of CSF into another region of the body
(often the abdominal cavity or a chamber of the heart) where it can be
absorbed. Surgeons adjust the valve within the shunt to maintain the CSF
at normal pressure within the ventricles.
Many people who have received a shunt have progressed well, although
some children with hydrocephalus have less than normal intelligence, physical
disabilities, and some other medical problems. Some NPH patients receiving
shunt-therapy have recovered full brain activity and dementia accompanying
their condition has been reversed. Patients should inquire about shunt
malfunctions and infections, developmental delays, learning disabilities
and visual problems associated with the procedure.
870 Market Street, Ste. 955
San Francisco, CA 94102
National Hydrocephalus Fnd.
Lakewood, CA 90715-1623
Guardians of Hydro. Res. Fnd.
2618 Avenue Z
Brooklyn, NY 11235
Family Caregivers Alliance
425 Bush Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94108
(800) 445-8106 (toll free in CA)
Nat. Easter Seals Society, Inc.
230 W. Monroe St., Ste. 1800
Chicago, IL 60606
Nat. Org. for Rare Disorders
P.O. Box 8923
New Fairfield, CT 06812-8923
The Neurology and Neuroscience Forum: http://www.medhelp.org/mhli/regcheck.exe?nxtpage=/perl6/neuro/wwwboard.html
Hydrocephalus: A Guide for Patients, Families & Friends:
The Cleveland Clinic Hydrocephalus Project:
An incredible list of self-help links are available on this site:
III. Further Information
Benzel, E, Pelletier, A, and Levy, P. "Communication Hydrocephalus
in Adults: Prediction of Outcome After Ventricular Shunting
Procedures." Neurosurgery, 26:4; 655-660 (April 1990).
Masters, J, and O'Grady, M. "Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus -- A
Potentially Reversible Form of Dementia." Journal of Psychosocial
Nursing, 30:6; 25-28 (1992).
Scott, R (ed). Hydrocephalus. Volume 3: Concepts in Neurology,
Williams & Wilkins Publishers, Baltimore, pp. 34-46, 109-114
St-Laurent, M. "Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus in Geriatric
Medicine: A Challenge." Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and
Neurology, 1; 163-168 (July- September 1988).
Turner, D, and McGeachie, R. "Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus and
Dementia -- Evaluation and Treatment." Clinics in Geriatric
Medicine, 4:4; 815-830 (November 1988).
MIT Braintrust Center
for Neurological Disorder Information