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Hydrocephalus Clinic

What is hydrocephalus? Is it common? What do I do if I think my child has hydrocephalus?


Hydrocephalus — is commonly knows as “water on the brain” — is a term used to describe increased collection of brain fluid- known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in or around the brain. Normally CSF flows over the brain and spinal cord but in hydrocephalus the fluid gathers.


The collection of fluid can happen if:

  • a blockage stops the fluid from flowing

  • fluid stops being absorbed

  • the brain produces too much fluid


Too much creates pressure on the brain inside the skull. If this pressure isn’t relieved, it can damage the brain.

Hydrocephalus is often congenital, meaning babies are born with it, but older children can also develop it. In some cases, hydrocephalus can develop from other brain conditions

Hydrocephalus needs treatment before symptoms get worse. The most common treatment involves diverting the fluid to another part of the body, often using a small tube known as a shunt. Some children may also be eligible for a minimally invasive surgery known as endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) to treat their hydrocephalus.

What are the effects of hydrocephalus?


Epilepsy can have a profound effect on a child’s life. Some children may fall or get injured during a seizure, and the episode can leave your child exhausted. The abnormal brain activity that happens during a seizure can sometimes cause damage to the brain. So seizures and epilepsy are a special concern in children, because children’s brains are busy growing and changing.

Epilepsy sometimes can cause changes in behavior and personality or lead to other neurological problems, learning difficulties or depression and anxiety. Identifying these sorts of problems and intervening early are important aspects of caring for a child with epilepsy. Some doctors are starting to use the term “epilepsy spectrum disorder” to reflect how complex epilepsy can be.


What are the symptoms of hydrocephalus?


Symptoms of hydrocephalus can vary widely and will depend how advanced the condition is when it is discovered.


Infants with hydrocephalus may have:

  • an enlarging head

  • a rapid increase in head size

  • sleepiness

  • frequent and severe vomiting

  • trouble looking up

  • seizures


Older children with hydrocephalus may have:

  • severe headaches,

  • nausea and vomiting

  • blurred or double vision

  • problems with balance

  • trouble looking up

  • problems with coordination

  • trouble standing or walking
  • loss of bladder control

  • extreme fatigue

  • delayed development

  • sudden changes in personality


If you notice these changes in your child please see a medical professional right away. 


Is hydrocephalus treatable? What are the options?

Most children with hydrocephalus can be treated by controlling the pressure in their brain and diverting the fluid build-up in the skull. We work with families to find a treatment approach that works for your child on an individualized plan.


Our surgeons have also described, pioneered, refined, and taught other neurosurgeons  the use of minimally-invasive surgical techniques — including endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV)  to treat hydrocephalus. Our comprehensive program seeks to reduce the risk of complications from hydrocephalus and bring awareness to this common neurological condition.

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