Hydrocephalus is a buildup of too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. The condition can be present at birth or the result of an illness or injury. Cerebrospinal fluid bathes and cushions the brain and spinal cord. It also delivers nutrients and removes waste. The fluid flows through open spaces in the brain called ventricles. When there is too much fluid in the brain, the ventricles grow larger and can put pressure on brain tissue.
There are two kinds of hydrocephalus:
Hydrocephalus can be the result of different causes and conditions, including:
The symptoms of hydrocephalus vary depending on what is causing the condition and the age of your child.
Symptoms of hydrocephalus in infancy include:
The symptoms of hydrocephalus in older children include:
If hydrocephalus develops quickly, your child will become very sick and show the characteristic symptoms. When hydrocephalus occurs over time, children may have headaches, developmental delays and problems with vision. Babies with hydrocephalus who still have an open soft spot may develop an enlarged head.
A similar condition called pseudotumor cerebri also involves increased cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and leads to the same kinds of symptoms that occur with hydrocephalus. If left untreated, pseudotumor cerebri can cause blindness.
Doctors at Riley at IU Health perform the following exams and tests to diagnose hydrocephalus:
Treatment for hydrocephalus focuses on reducing the amount of cerebrospinal fluid and the resulting pressure around the brain. Treatments include:
Visit the links below to discover support groups and more resources for hydrocephalus.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This group provides extensive support for families living with hydrocephalus. The website includes sections for parents, teens and caregivers.
This is a multicenter collaborative research group that includes nine children’s hospitals and a centralized data center. The website highlights the latest research efforts and findings as well as clinical trials for hydrocephalus.
Pediatric neurosurgeons at Riley at IU Health are involved in research related to treating and managing hydrocephalus.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.