What is it?
Hydrocephalus literally means ‘water head’. Getting its name from two Greek words, water from hydro and head from cephalus, this is a condition where this excess accumulation of fluid in the brain. The fluid here is referred to as cerebrospinal fluid or more commonly as CSF. This may lead to pressure within the skull (intracranial) and enlarged head, tunnel vision and mental disability the patient may also suffer convulsions.
When does it occur?
The condition may be congenital or acquired. The former condition is present at birth as a result of genetic abnormalities, while the latter develops either at the time of birth or sometime later. The acquired hydrocephalus can affect any age group and may be result of a disease or an injury.
Hydrocephalus also affects adults and is categorised as ex-vacuo and normal pressure hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus ex-vacuo occurs when the brain is damaged due to stroke or traumatic injury. In such incidents, the brain tissue may likely shrink.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus though predominantly seen among senior citizens 26 can affect people at any age.
What is the rate of occurrence?
Hydrocephalus affects approximately 1 in every 500 children.
What causes it?
Intraventricular hemorrhage caused due to complications of premature birth
- Traumatic head injury
- CNS (central nervous system) infection
- Intracranial haemorrhage
What are its effects?
- Adversely affects mood and behaviour
- Learning disabilities
- Short-term memory loss
- Clumsiness (movement abnormalities) and problems with coordination
- Precocious puberty
- One in four develops epilepsy
- Progressive visual loss
How is it diagnosed?
Hydrocephalus is diagnosed through clinical neurological evaluation with the help of one of these techniques:
- CT scan
- MRI scan
What is the treatment?
Hydrocephalus requires surgery, which involves insertion of ventriculoperitoneal shunt, which diverts excess fluid from the lateral ventricle to the peritoneal cavity. Another rarely used procedure is called the ventriculoatrial shunt, which drains fluid from the brain’s lateral ventricle into the right atrium of the heart, where the fluid makes its way into the venous circulation.