What Is Hydrocephalus?
comes from the Greek: "hydro" means water, "cephalus" means head.
Hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
within cavities called ventricles inside the brain. CSF is
produced in the ventricles, circulates through the ventricular
system and is absorbed into the bloodstream. CSF is in constant
circulation and has many important functions.
» It surrounds the
brain and spinal cord and acts as a protective cushion against
injury. CSF contains nutrients and proteins necessary for the
nourishment and normal function of the brain. It also carries
waste products away from surrounding tissues. Hydrocephalus occurs
when there is an imbalance between the amount of CSF that is
produced and the rate at which it is absorbed. As the CSF builds
up, it causes the ventricles to enlarge and the pressure inside
the head to increase.
Hydrocephalus that is congenital (present at birth) is thought to
be caused by a complex interaction of environmental and perhaps
genetic factors. Aqueductal stenosis and spina bifida are two
examples. Acquired hydrocephalus may result from intraventricular
hemorrhage, meningitis, head trauma, tumors and cysts.
Hydrocephalus is believed to occur in about 2 out of 1,000 births.
The incidences of adult-onset hydrocephalus and acquired
hydrocephalus are not known.
There is no known
way to prevent or cure hydrocephalus. The most effective treatment
is surgical insertion of a shunt. Learn more about
Endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) is growing in popularity as
an alternative treatment method for hydrocephalus. Learn more
» The brain is the nerve center and is by
far the most complex organ in the human body. The primary function
of the brain is to control the body. It regulates breathing and
circulation, and controls the functions of the body's vital
organs. The brain is also responsible for analyzing and
remembering everything that you see, touch, hear, taste, and
smell. For instance, when you reach down to touch a flower, the
nerves in your fingertips send an impulse to the parietal lobe of
your brain, which identifies the sensation.
To communicate effectively with neurosurgeons, patients who have
hydrocephalus need to become familiar with the basic structures of
the brain. Your neurosurgeon will talk about the various
structures of the brain, and by being familiar with their location
and functions, you will better understand what she is talking
about. Learning about some of the terms and functions of the brain
will allow you to more actively participate in your care. After
experience with the condition, you will find yourself talking
about ventricles, hemispheres, lobes, the cerebellum, cranial
nerves, and possibly other parts of the brain you didn't know
» The brain is divided
into sections that control different bodily functions. The effect
that hydrocephalus has on an area of the body greatly depends on
where the blockage or abnormal accumulation of CSF is located. If
there is a build-up of fluid near the frontal lobes of the brain,
you could experience difficulty with motor skills, since the
frontal lobe houses the motor cortex. Likewise, if there is a
arachnoidal cyst that is placing pressure on the occipital lobe,
your vision might be affected.
Responses on one side of the brain control actions on the opposite
side of the body. For example, if you want to move your right arm,
a signal is sent to the motor cortex of your left frontal lobe.
This signal is then sent to the muscles of your arm to perform and
control the movement. If there is a cyst or tumor placing pressure
on the right side of the brain, it will
affect the functions of the left side of
the body controlled by the area where the cyst or tumor is
This article gives you an overview of the structures of the brain
and discusses some of their functions. It first looks at the
outermost structures of the brain, the meninges, then at the
middle of the brain where the ventricles are located, and finally
moves inside to the core of the brain, the brain stem.