Hydrocephalus is a condition which is caused by the inability of the body to absorb cerebrospinal fluids correctly. It can also be a result of a narrow channel between ventricles which hinders the proper flow of the fluid.
The symptoms of hydrocephalus are easy to identify in infants. These symptoms may include vomiting, seizures, and delay in development. More obvious symptoms include a sudden growth in the size of the head in a short time. Another is a soft bulge on the head.
Hydrocephalus in adults and older children may be indicated by sluggishness, changes in personality, loss of coordination, slow development, headache followed by vomiting, confusion, loss of memory and blurry vision.
A form of hydrocephalus called normal pressure hydrocephalus often occurs in older people. It is indicated by the inability to control urinary functions, gait impairments, and reduced memory.
About this Condition
The ventricles of the brain are filled with cerebrospinal fluid. As the ventricles are filled up with the cerebrospinal fluid, they can function as a sort of cushion to the brain and also increase the buoyancy of the brain. The brain is surrounded by the cerebrospinal fluid, and it floats in a bath of this fluid.
There are a lot of channels in the brain which interconnect and allow the flow of cerebrospinal fluid through the ventricles. As the flow of the fluid progresses, it will eventually flow into the spaces between the skull and the brain. These areas are closed, and this allows the absorption of the cerebrospinal fluid into the bloodstream.
To maintain the pressure in the skull at the normal level, there must be a balance between the level of production, the flow rate and the absorption rate of the cerebrospinal fluid.
Hydrocephalus is observed to occur when there is an interruption in the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid. This may result from the inability of the body to absorb the cerebrospinal fluid or the narrowing of the interconnecting channels between ventricles.
Many older people experience normal pressure hydrocephalus. In this form of hydrocephalus, there is a slight increase in the pressure of the head when compared to the normal level.
A shunt refers to a drainage system which is put into the body through surgery to ease the flow of fluid from the brain. This is one of the most widely used applications in the treatment of hydrocephalus. A flexible tube is inserted with one end connected to a ventricle of the brain while the other end of the tube is directed to another location in the body such as the abdomen. Any area which is selected will usually absorb the cerebrospinal fluid efficiently. The direction and the rate of the flow are controlled by a valve attached to the tube.
A child who is experiencing hydrocephalus may need to undergo surgery after specific periods. This is because the shunt is a permanent implant. For this reason, as a child grows older, there will be a need to replace the tube with a longer tube. The tubes also have to be checked for infections or blockage.
As an alternative to inserting a shunt system, a third ventriculostomy surgery is performed. Through this surgery, the flow of the cerebral spinal fluid can be directed through another route. Blockages in the ventricular system channels can also be eliminated. An incision of 1 inch is usually made in the scalp through which a scope can be passed to perform the procedure.