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Hydrocephalus comes from the Greek words hydro meaning water and cephalus meaning head.

Hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within cavities in the brain called ventricles. Cerebrospinal fluid is produced in the ventricles and in the choroid plexus. It circulates through the ventricular system in the brain and is absorbed into the bloodstream. This fluid is in constant circulation and has many functions, including to surround the brain and spinal cord and act as a protective cushion against injury. It contains nutrients and proteins necessary for the nourishment and normal function of the brain, and carries waste products away from surrounding tissues.

Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an imbalance between the amount of CSF that is produced and the rate at which it is absorbed. As the CSF builds up, it causes the ventricles to enlarge and the pressure inside the head to increase.

Click here to learn more about brain physiology relevant to hydrocephalus.

Who develops hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus affects a wide range of people, from infants and older children to young, middle-aged and older adults.

  • Over 1,000,000 people in the United States currently live with hydrocephalus.
  • For every 1,000 babies born in this country, one to two will have hydrocephalus.
  • Hydrocephalus is the most common reason for brain surgery in children.
  • It is estimated that more than 700,000 Americans have NPH, but less than 20% receive an appropriate diagnosis.


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