Hydrocephalus

Neurosurgical Specialists of West County

Neurosurgeons located in Saint Louis, MO

Hydrocephalus is a condition in which the essential cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds your brain can’t escape from your skull as it normally would, causing a buildup of pressure that can lead to serious medical problems. The highly qualified team at Neurosurgical Specialists of West County in St. Louis has considerable experience treating patients who have hydrocephalus, successfully using surgical interventions to help cerebrospinal fluid drain away. Call the practice today to find out more.

Hydrocephalus Q & A

What is hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a condition where cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) builds up, causing the ventricles in your brain to widen, which puts pressure on the brain tissues.

CSF is a vital component of the brain and spinal cord. It cushions your brain and protects it from damage, delivers nutrients to your brain and removes waste products, and compensates for changes in the amount of blood within your brain.

All these functions are essential to life, but if the balance between production and absorption of CSF gets disrupted, then the fluid itself can build up and become a life-threatening problem.

The cause of hydrocephalus isn’t always clear. It may develop following problems such as:

  • Birth complications
  • Meningitis
  • Tumors
  • Traumatic head injury
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage

There may be genetic abnormalities that are preventing CSF from draining away as it should, or hydrocephalus can be a feature of developmental disorders like spina bifida.

What are the symptoms of hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus in infants often causes an unusually large head size or a skull that seems to be growing rapidly. Other possible symptoms of hydrocephalus in infants include:

    • Vomiting
    • Sleepiness
    • Irritability
    • Seizures
    • Sun setting (a downward deviation of the eyes)

    Older children and adults who have hydrocephalus might also experience:

    • Headaches
    • Blurred or double vision
    • Problems with balance
    • Poor coordination
    • Gait problems
    • Urinary incontinence
    • Personality changes
    • Memory loss
    • Lethargy
    • Delayed development

    Symptoms of hydrocephalus vary according to age and physiological differences. For example, a baby’s skull can expand if CSF builds up because the joints are still open, but an adult’s skull can’t expand, meaning CSF buildup causes harmful pressure on the brain more rapidly.

What treatments are available for hydrocephalus?

The main treatment option for hydrocephalus is the insertion of a shunt. A shunt is a slim plastic tube that your surgeon at Neurosurgical Specialists of West County places in your brain or spinal cord, where it allows CSF to drain away into an area of the body where it can be absorbed.

Some patients may be suitable for a procedure called third ventriculostomy, which involves using fiber optic technology to view the brain and make a hole in precisely the right place to allow CSF to drain away safely.

If you’d like to find out more about hydrocephalus and the treatment options available for you or your child, call Neurosurgical Specialists of West County today to schedule a consultation.