From the Greek words “hydro” (water) and “cephalus” (head), hydrocephalus is often referred to as ‘water on the brain’.
Rather than water, however, it is the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that characterizes hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is the most common congenital defect of the brain and spine with 1 in 500 infants born with this condition. Although it can occur in adults, hydrocephalus is more common in children, especially infants, and causes potential damage to the brain.
At about 6 weeks in utero, the fetus beings to produce cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Normally, this fluid bathes the ventricular system of the brain—(the brain includes four ventricles (cavities) connected by narrow pathways)—and is then absorbed into the bloodstream. Hydrocephalus is usually caused by either an obstruction or overproduction of CSF leading to its accumulation and an increased intracranial pressure.
The root causes of hydrocephalus are not completely clear. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are over 180 possible causes of hydrocephalus. While it may result from genetic inheritance or developmental disorders such as those associated with neural tube defects including spina bifida and encephalocele, other possible causes include complications of premature birth, diseases such as meningitis, tumors, traumatic head injury, obesity or subarachnoid hemorrhage causing a blockage of fluid.
While there is no cure for hydrocephalus, ANA is committed to the most comprehensive care for those who come to us from among the 1 million Americans who suffer from this disease.