Hydrocephalus affects about 1 in every 500 children born.
Hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of Cerebro-Spinal Fluid, within cavities called ventricles inside the brain.
In many cases, there is no medical history to explain the development of NPH and its symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose and research.
Common Types of Hydrocephalus
1. Congenital Hydrocephalus (present at birth) is present at birth and is thought to be caused by a complex interaction of genetic and environmental factors. Acqueductal stenosis, an obstruction of the cerebral aqueduct (drainage pathways), is the most common cause of congenital hydrocephalus.
2. Acquired hydrocephalus (after birth) may result from spina bifida, intraventricular hemorrhage, meningitis, head trauma, tumours and cysts. Aqueductal stenosis, an obstruction of the cerebral aqueduct, is the most frequent cause of congenital hydrocephalus.
3. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) – occurs after birth and is generally of an unknown cause. NPH can also develop as a result of a head injury, cranial surgery, subarachnoid haemorrhage, tumour or cysts, as well as subdural haematomas, bleeding during surgery, meningitis and other brain infections. All of these conditions can cause inflammation that affects the CSF pathways, impeding CSF flow.
Most forms of hydrocephalus require treatment. The usual treatment is to insert a shunting device. It is important to note that this does not cure the hydrocephalus.
Shunting controls the pressures by draining excess CSF, thus preventing the condition becoming worse. Symptoms caused by raised pressure usually improve but other problems of brain damage can remain.
CSF is in constant circulation and has many important functions. It surrounds the brain and spinal cord and acts as a protective cushion against injury. CSF contains nutrients and proteins that are needed for the nourishment and normal function of the brain. It also carries waste products away from surrounding tissues.
Another way of treating the hydrocephalus is by way of a Third Ventriculostomy. The neurosurgeon punctures a small hole through the floor of the third ventricle so that the CSF can flow from the third ventricle into the fourth ventricle of the brain.
Hydrocephalus Effects in future
In children with Hydrocephalus may be physical disabilities, poor coordination and a variety of other medical problems. Some children with hydrocephalus will have less than normal intelligence.
Consequently families need to be continually aware and alert to the need of ongoing care and appropriate intervention.