What is hydrocephalus? Well, hydrocephalus is the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles (cavities) inside of your brain. The excess fluid not only enlarges these ventricles, it also places considerable pressure on your brain. In a healthy body, cerebrospinal fluid travels through your brain’s ventricles, and cleans your spinal column and brain. However, if there is too much pressure, from the extra cerebrospinal fluid, your brain and its tissues can be damaged, resulting in hydrocephalus. This condition can cause a variety of brain function impairments. Although hydrocephalus can develop at any age, it is more prevalent in infants and the elderly. It is important that this condition be treated as soon as possible, because it can be life-threatening, and in some cases, fatal.
Thankfully, treatments are available for hydrocephalus. In fact, the preferred treatments are shunting, and endoscopic third ventriculostomy. Endoscopic third ventriculostomy not only effectively restores your cerebrospinal fluid levels to a normal state; it also helps maintain those levels. In addition, to surgery, medical interventions may be needed to help manage your condition, and any impairment that accompanies it. If you are wondering how hydrocephalus is treated, you have come to the right place. This article will explain to you how this condition is normally treated.
The two surgical treatments commonly used to treat hydrocephalus are:
The first step of action when treating hydrocephalus is normally is to surgically insert a shunt (tubing) inside of one of your brain’s ventricles to remove the excess cerebrospinal fluid, and relieve the pressure on your brain. A shunt is an artificial drainage system that consists of a long, bendable tube with a valve. The main purpose of the shunt is to help your brain’s cerebrospinal fluid travel at the right speed, in the right direction.
A surgeon tunnels the shunt (tubing) from your brain to another part of your body (i.e. a chamber of your heart or abdomen) so that the excess fluid can be more easily absorbed. It is important to note that most people with this condition will need a shunt for the rest of their lives. They will also need to schedule regular follow-ups to effectively manage this condition.
- Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy
Another surgical procedure that is used to treat hydrocephalus is endoscopic third ventriculostomy. During a endoscopic third ventriculostomy, your neurosurgeon uses a small video camera to peer into the cavities of your brain. He or she then either makes an incision (hole) at the base of one of your brain’s ventricles, or in-between your brain’s ventricles so that your cerebrospinal fluid can exit your brain region.
It is important to note that some people with hydrocephalus need additional treatments and interventions. A care team may be needed for children with this condition. This care team may include: a pediatrician or physiatrist, a pediatric neurologist, an occupational therapist, a developmental therapist, a social worker, a mental health counselor, and/or a special education teacher.
Although surgery for hydrocephalus is highly effective and beneficial, there are complications associated with both types of surgical procedures (shunting and endoscopic third ventriculostomy). Shunts can breakdown or stop functioning as a result of infections, mechanical malfunctions, and/or blockages. When this occurs, your cerebrospinal fluid is unable to drain properly, leading to a host of complications.
Complications associated with endoscopic third ventriculostomy include: infections and bleeding (hemorrhaging). Side-effects that can occur with both surgeries include: irritability, fever, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, vision impairments, skin redness, pain, and/or tenderness along the shunt (tubing) path, and abdominal pain if the shunt has been placed in your abdomen. If you experience any side-effects or complications, following your surgery, seek emergency medical attention.
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Hydrocephalus: Treatments and drugs. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hydrocephalus/basics/treatment/con-20030706
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes. (2014). Hydrocephalus fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hydrocephalus/detail_hydrocephalus.htm