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Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is a condition that occurs when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles (cavities) of the brain.

 

CSF is produced in the brain, and is needed by the body to protect the brain and spinal cord, and to carry away waste from brain cells. It flows continuously through the ventricles of the brain and over the surface of the brain and spinal cord.

 

Any excess CSF usually drains away from the brain and is absorbed by the body. For people with hydrocephalus, this doesn't happen, and the fluid builds up in the ventricles.

 

Too much cerebrospinal fluid puts a harmful amount of pressure on tissues in the brain. Treatment is needed to release this pressure. Hydrocephalus can be congenital (present at birth), or can develop later in childhood or adulthood. Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a type of hydrocephalus that usually develops in people over 60. This is caused by the drainage of the CSF gradually becoming blocked.

 

Treatment For Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is most often treated by surgically inserting a shunt system. This system diverts the flow of CSF from the CNS to another area of the body where it can be absorbed as part of the normal circulatory process.

 

A shunt is a flexible, plastic tube consisting of the shunt, a catheter, and a valve. One end of the catheter is placed within a ventricle inside the brain or in the CSF outside the spinal cord. The other end of the catheter is commonly placed within the abdominal cavity, but may also be placed at other sites in the body such as a chamber of the heart or areas around the lung where the CSF can drain and be absorbed. A valve located along the catheter maintains one-way flow and regulates the rate of CSF flow.

 

A limited number of individuals can be treated with an alternative procedure called third ventriculostomy. In this procedure, a neuroendoscope camera, that uses fibre optic technology to visualize difficult to reach areas allows the surgeon to view the ventricular surface. Once the scope is guided into position, a small tool makes a tiny hole in the floor of the third ventricle, which then allows CSF to bypass the obstruction and flow toward the site of resorption around the surface of the brain.

 

The London Brain Centre has a rapid access facility with 24 hour cover for any patient or patients GP who wish to organise an urgent referral for investigation.

 


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Brain and neurology guide: conditions and treatments