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Arizona Neurosurgery & Spine Specialist

Hydrocephalus Specialists

What is hydrocephalus?

Simply described as too much cerebrospinal fluid, hydrocephalus is a complex condition that has several causes. Normally, the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal column, flows through ventricles, spaces within your brain. This fluid has a life cycle, being produced, circulating, then being absorbed into the bloodstream. Cerebrospinal fluid has several important tasks, including cushioning the brain and clearing away the by-products of the brain’s metabolism.

There are three primary reasons why the balance of this fluid may be upset. The most common is an obstruction to the normal flow of fluid. Less often, there’s a problem with the way cerebrospinal fluid is absorbed. In rare cases, the tissue that generates the fluid may over produce.

The condition is typically diagnosed through a neurological exam and brain imaging, including ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computerized tomography (CT).

What symptoms might indicate hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is most common in infants and older patients, but the condition may affect people of any age. Symptoms and signs of the disease vary by both age and ability to communicate. Infants and toddlers may show changes to the size and shape of the head, either bulges, an abnormally large head, or a fast increase in head size. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Eyes fixed in a downward position
  • Irritability
  • Excessive and unexplained vomiting
  • Reduced response to touch

In older people, there’s typically no change to the head. Changes to personality or performance in school or at work may begin. The common physical signs include:

  • Shuffling gait and difficulty walking
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Memory and reasoning loss
  • Loss of balance and coordination

How is hydrocephalus treated?

The most common treatment is a surgically implanted shunt that assists drainage of cerebrospinal fluid from the skull. Typically, the tube runs from a ventricle in the brain to somewhere else in the body where excess fluid is absorbed more readily.

Endoscopic third ventriculostomy is a minimally-invasive surgery in which a hole is made in the bottom of, or between ventricles to enhance fluid drainage. Patients usually need regular monitoring to make sure that improved drainage through either method continues.

The fluid in which your brain floats is likely a body system you’ll never consider until something goes wrong. When there’s too much fluid – a condition called hydrocephalus – serious brain impairment could result.

The surgeons of Arizona Neurosurgery and Spine At The CORE Institute, located in Phoenix and Peoria, Arizona, can help restore and manage normal levels of cerebrospinal fluid.

This condition is caused by an increased amount of cerebrospinal fluid (commonly called CSF) in the brain's ventricles. The ventricles are a system of large, fluid-filled open spaces inside the brain. Too much CSF in the ventricles can elevate pressure in the skull. It can damage delicate brain tissue.

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