Hydrocephalus

Lance E. Gravely MD, Inc

Neurosurgeon located in Pasadena, CA & Encino, CA

Hydrocephalus can happen at any age, but it’s most common in adults age 60 and older and infants. If you or a loved one might have this condition, it’s important to seek expert care to enjoy optimal health. That’s where Lance E. Gravely, MD, comes in. Conveniently located in Pasadena and Encino, California, the office includes board-certified specialists in neurology who know how to care for hydrocephalus. If you’re ready for high-quality care from a neurosurgeon, call or book a consultation online today.

Hydrocephalus Q & A

What is hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus occurs when fluid builds up inside your brain. Although it’s sometimes called “water on the brain,” the liquid is excess cerebrospinal fluid, not water.

Hydrocephalus may increase pressure within your head. If you have hydrocephalus, you may experience headaches, nausea, or changes in your vision.

What causes hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus can run in families, although that’s rare. It may be linked to disorders like spina bifida. Other causes include:

  • Head injuries
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Brain tumors
  • Diseases, including meningitis or other infections

In some cases, a blockage in your brain can cause a fluid build-up.

What are the symptoms of hydrocephalus?

The most common symptoms of hydrocephalus include:

  • A larger than normal head
  • Tension or bulging in a baby’s soft spot (fontanel)
  • Bones begin to separate in a baby’s head
  • Thinning of your scalp
  • Scalp veins bulge out
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Seizures

Poor appetite is also a sign of hydrocephalus. Your doctor can determine whether these symptoms indicate hydrocephalus or another health condition.

How is hydrocephalus diagnosed?

Your doctor begins by reviewing your medical history and performing a physical and neurological exam. Depending on your results, you may need brain imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI.

Imaging tests of your brain can reveal if the ventricles, the cavities in your brain holding cerebrospinal fluid, have grown too large due to excess cerebrospinal fluid. The tests can also point to underlying causes of hydrocephalus.

How is hydrocephalus treated?

Your treatment will be tailored to your condition, but you’ll typically need surgery to regain optimal health. The most common surgery involves installing a long, flexible drainage tube called a shunt in your brain. The shunt prevents fluid build-up and ensures that fluid flows in the right speed and direction.   

In other cases, if a blockage is causing the fluid build-up, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove the obstruction. Another option is a treatment called endoscopic third ventriculostomy. With a tiny camera, or endoscope, your doctor will be able to view the inside of your brain and create a new path for the fluid to flow.

To find out more about expert care for hydrocephalus, call or book a consultation online with neurosurgeon Lance E. Gravely, MD today.