Hydrocephalus means water on the brain. It is characterized by the excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) surrounding the brain inside the skull. Excessive accumulation of fluid within the limited space of skull imparts pressure on the brain and causes damage to the brain tissue. It mostly occurs in children but may also occur in adults and old people.
It occurs due to birth defect, genetic defect, and infection of the central nervous system, injury or tumours of the brain or spine.
The diagnosis can be confirmed by CT scan of the head. Other imaging test such as skull X-rays, brain scan, ultrasound and arteriography may also be used. Sometimes lumbar puncture and examination of the cerebrospinal fluid is also done.
Treatment aims at improving the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid from the brain. It is done surgically by directing the brain fluid to other parts of the body such as abdominal cavity by placing a flexible plastic tube, shunt, from the brain to that region where it is absorbed. The shunt may get blocked, separated, kinked or infected. An alternate surgical procedure is called third ventriculostomy. Third ventriculostomy is done by the surgeon using images from an endoscope a pen-sized thin instrument with an attached camera that sends pictures on the screen. The surgery involves making tiny hole in the floor of the third ventricle thus bypassing the site of obstruction into the region where the CSF can be reabsorbed.