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What is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus occurs when there is a buildup of the fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. While the condition is sometimes called "water on the brain," the fluid is not water — rather it is cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF can cause pressure on the brain, damaging tissues and interfering with brain and spinal functions.

Most cases of hydrocephalus occur in children, and may even begin while the baby is growing in the womb. This can be caused by genetic abnormalities or problems during the fetus' development.

Common symptoms

The main sign of a child born with congenital hydrocephalus is an unusually large head size. Hydrocephalus that occurs after birth can have symptoms that include:

  • A change in the way you walk, or in facial expressions
  • Headaches
  • Mood or other mental changes>
  • Problems controlling urine or bowel movements
  • Slow growth in young children

How is hydrocephalus diagnosed?

Diagnosis of hydrocephalus can be done through a neurological exam as well as brain imaging through the use of:

How is hydrocephalus treated?

Treatment may include antibiotics for hydrocephalus that is caused by an infection. Often, treatment includes surgically inserting a flexible tube, called a shunt, to release the fluid away from the brain. Other options include surgically relieving pressure without inserting a shunt, or cauterizing (removing) some parts of the brain that produce CSF.

The surgeons at Rex Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists can help you decide on the treatment that is best for you. They are trained in the latest treatments and techniques and are experienced in diagnosing and treating brain, spine and peripheral nerve disorders and disease. To make an appointment at Rex Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists, call 919-784-1410.