Water on the brain
Hydrocephalus is a buildup of fluid inside the skull, leading to brain swelling. Hydrocephalus means "water on the brain."
Hydrocephalus is due to a problem with the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The fluid brings nutrients to the brain, takes away waste from the brain, and acts as a cushion.
CSF normally moves through areas of the brain called ventricles, then around the outside of the brain and the spinal cord. It is then reabsorbed into the bloodstream. Buildup of CSF can occur in the brain if its flow or absorption is blocked or if too much CSF is produced.
This buildup of fluid puts pressure on the brain, pushing the brain up against the skull and damaging or destroying brain tissues.
Hydrocephalus may start while the baby is growing in the womb. It is commonly present with myelomeningocele, a birth defect involving incomplete closure of the spinal column. Genetic defects and certain infections that occur during pregnancy may also cause hydrocephalus.
In young children, hydrocephalus may also be associated with the following conditions:
Hydrocephalus most often occurs in children, but may also occur in adults and the elderly. See: Normal pressure hydrocephalus
Kinsman SL, Johnston MV. Congenital anomalies of the central nervous system. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 592.
Golden JA, Bönnemann CG. Developmental structural disorders. In: Goetz CG, eds. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 28.
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