What is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a central nervous system disorder that can cause increased pressure in the brain, resulting in brain damage and neurological deficits. Hydrocephalus is caused by inadequate drainage or obstruction of drainage of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. Normally, CSF flows through the central nervous system much like oil flows through your car’s engine. A membrane in the brain produces CSF, which travels down the spinal cord and back again to the brain, where the brain reabsorbs it. Under normal circumstances, this flow pattern keeps just enough CSF in the brain for the brain and nervous system to be healthy. If the brain does not properly reabsorb the CSF, or something in the brain blocks the normal CSF flow, hydrocephalus occurs.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus occurs in the elderly and results in enlargement of CSF spaces in the brain, leading to memory problems, difficulty walking and incontinence of urine.

How does a surgeon treat Hydrocephalus?

A surgeon will operate to provide a way for the excess CSF to leave the brain safely. Typically, a surgeon will place a ventriculo-peritoneal (VP) shunt into the brain. This is a tube hidden inside the body that connects ventricles (the CSF reservoir in the brain) to the peritoneal cavity (the space in the abdomen that contains the stomach and other organs). Because the head sits higher than the peritoneal cavity, the excess CSF flows down into the peritoneal cavity, where the cavity lining absorbs it. This restores the normal balance of CSF and normal functioning to the brain.

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