Hydrocephalus, or "water on the brain," is the
buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain. The pressure from
the fluid buildup may lead to brain damage if the condition is not treated.
Normally, CSF flows through and out of chambers in the brain
called ventricles, and then around the brain and spinal cord, providing
nutrition and a protective cushion. Hydrocephalus is caused by an imbalance
between the brain's production of CSF and the body's ability to distribute or
absorb it properly.
Hydrocephalus is most often present at birth
(congenital) and is usually noticeable within the first 9 months of life. Less
often, hydrocephalus develops after a serious illness (such as meningitis) or a
Treatment usually includes draining the fluid spaces
(ventricles) of the brain with a tube, called a shunt.
treatment, babies with hydrocephalus may not have any long-term problems. Some
may have only mild problems, such as learning problems. Hydrocephalus can
be life-threatening or cause severe intellectual disability if it is not treated.