What is Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus, at its core, is an imbalance of CSF production to absorption that leads to increased intracranial pressure (ICP).
Some common causes are blockages preventing normal CSF flow, decreased absorption of CSF by blood vessels, or overproduction of CSF. These factors can come about before and after birth due to wide range of reasons including genetic abnormalities, head trauma, tumors, and brain infections like meningitis.
Idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH) is a cause of dementia and is the most common form of hydrocephalus in adults. As many as 185,000 adults in the U.S. have normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) and are sometimes misdiagnosed as suffering from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. Surgical shunting may be an effective treatment for many of those diagnosed with iNPH and studies suggest it may reduce symptoms of dementia in iNPH patients up to 80% of the time. 1
How common is hydrocephalus?
Approximately 1-2 babies in every 500 are born with Hydrocephalus. Both babies and adults can develop hydrocephalus. Over 1,000,000 people in the U.S. live with hydrocephalus today.
Is there a cure for hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus is typically a lifelong condition that must be managed throughout a patient’s lifetime, but many people live long lives with care and support of a neurosurgical care team.
What medical specialty treats hydrocephalus?
If I am diagnosed with hydrocephalus, will I need surgery?
Your neurosurgeon can advise you on a care option to best manage your condition based on your specific needs.
What is ICP?
ICP, or intracranial pressure, is a measurement of the pressure within the skull, which most of the time is the “brain pressure”. ICP changes are common and normal within a certain range, however ICP can increase too much. Such increases can be caused by injury or because of a tumor or illness. These factors may lead to an increase in CSF, blood, or tissue swelling in the brain. Signs and symptoms of this condition may include headache, vomiting, confusion, lethargy, and seizures.
What do I need to watch for with hydrocephalus?
If you have a shunt, watch for signs of signs of shunt failure as explained to you by your neurosurgeon. If you are at all worried about shunt failure, please contact your neurosurgeon.
Such signs may include but are not limited to:
- Enlargement of the head in infants and toddlers
- Difficulty waking up or staying awake (lethargy)
- Difficulty walking
- Redness along the shunt tract
Can I damage my shunt or ReFlow by accidentally hitting my head?
Normal activities should not damage the shunt but care should be taken to avoid direct pressure and impact on the shunt and surrounding area to avoid possible kinking or damage. A serious fall or injury to the area of the shunt could require a trip to the emergency room. When in doubt, always call your neurosurgeon or visit the nearest emergency room.