Pediatric Neurosurgery

Hydrocephalus

Contact Information

(608) 263-6420

1-800-323-8942

 

Health Facts for You

Hydrocephalus

The UW Health Pediatric Neurosurgery program provides care for children with hydrocephalus.
 
What is hydrocephalus?
 
Hydrocephalus, which is translated as "water on the brain," is an abnormal amount of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. The increased fluid causes intercranial pressure, which can result in the symptoms listed below.
 
When functioning properly, cerebrospinal fluid cushions brain tissue from trauma and delivers nutrients to the brain, then exits the brain and is reabsorbed by the bloodstream. Hydrocephalus results when this equilibrium is disturbed.
Shunt system for hydrocephalus 

The shunt diverts cerebrospinal fluid to the abdomen.

 
Though the exact number of children with hydrocephalus is not known, experts estimate that one in 500 children suffers from the disease.
 
Symptoms of Hydrocephalus
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Increase in infant's head size
  • "Sunset eyes" (eyes which do not look up) 

Causes of Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus can be congenital (passed on via the child's genes) or acquired (developed at or after birth). The causes are not fully understood, but acquired (non-congenital) hydrocephalus may result from problems associated with premature birth, head injuries and tumors.

Treatment of Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus often requires the surgical placement of a shunt to divert excess fluid from the brain and relieve intracranial pressure. The shunt, a narrow tube placed in the brain ventricle, reroutes cerebrospinal fluid to the abdomen. This allows the cerebrospinal fluid to be absorbed back into the bloodstream which is the body’s normal process.