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What is hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus occurs when there is a build-up of fluid on the brain. The excess fluid causes a build-up of pressure on the brain.


It is important that hydrocephalus is treated as it can cause permanent brain damage or even be fatal.



The symptoms associated with hydrocephalus can differ between every patient, however here are some of the most common symptoms:


  • Headaches

  • Vomiting and nausea

  • Altered vision

  • Problems with walking


There are three different types of hydrocephalus:


  • Congenital hydrocephalus – this is caused by conditions such as spina bifida or mumps that develops while the baby is developing in the mother (they are born with it). Unfortunately, the excess fluid in their brain will often cause lifelong disabilities

  • Acquired hydrocephalus – this will usually develop after a trauma or illness that affects the head. For example, a serious head injury or condition such as a brain tumour.

  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus – this is an extremely rare form of hydrocephalus, and not understood very well. This is most common in people over the age of 60, and can sometimes below after strokes. Symptoms are similar to those associated with Alzheimer’s.


Congenital and acquired hydrocephalus can both be diagnosed with either an MRI scan or CT scan. When diagnosing normal pressure hydrocephalus, it is important that a checklist is followed to ensure that the right diagnosis is given, as treatment can relieve the symptoms.


One of the treatment options for hydrocephalus a shunt. This is a tiny tube that is placed in the brain that drains the fluid away to another part of the body, usually the tummy. This procedure usually takes around 1-2 hours to complete and may require a stay in hospital for a few days.


Another treatment option is an endoscopic third ventriculostomy. For this procedure a small hole is made in the base of the brain to allow the fluid to be absorb by another part of the body. This procedure is not suitable for everyone.


This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.


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