Hydrocephalus is a condition that occurs when fluid builds up in the skull and causes the brain to swell. The name means “water on the brain.” Brain damage can occur as a result of the fluid buildup. This can lead to developmental, physical, and intellectual impairments. It requires treatment to prevent serious complications. Hydrocephalus mainly occurs in children and adults over 60, but younger adults can get it too. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimates that 1 to 2 of every 1,000 babies are born with hydrocephalus.
Symptoms: Symptoms of increased intracranial pressure may include headaches, vomiting, nausea, papilledema, sleepiness or coma. Elevated intracranial pressure may result in uncal and/or cerebellar tonsill herniation, with resulting life-threatening brain stem compression.
Treatment: In most cases, a shunt is surgically inserted. The shunt is a drainage system made of a long tube with a valve. The valve helps CSF flow at a normal rate and in the right direction. Your doctor inserts one end of the tube in your brain and the other end into your chest or abdominal cavity. Excess fluid then drains from the brain and out the other end of the tube, where it can be more easily absorbed. A shunt implant is typically permanent and has to be monitored regularly.
Statastics: The authors performed an electronic search of National Center for Health Statistics death certificate databases to identify deaths from 1979 to 1998 attributed to congenital hydrocephalus, spina bifida with hydrocephalus, and acquired hydrocephalus (both obstructive and communicating) in all children in the US aged 1 day to 20 years. Mortality rates were defined as deaths per 100,000 person-years and were analyzed for differences on the basis of age, race, sex, and year.