Spirit Rosenberg from Great.com interviewed the Hydrocephalus Association as part of their ‘Great.com Talks With…’ podcast. This series is an antidote to negative news stories that aims to shed light on organizations and experts whose work is making a positive impact on the world.

Why surgeons still use a 50 year-old procedure to treat hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus affects a staggering one million people in the USA. One in every 770 babies develops it in their first year. But it has not yet received its fair share of publicity. Diana Gray, HA’s President and CEO, discussed the importance of researching new treatments for this often misdiagnosed condition.

Hydrocephalus is a complex condition marked by excess accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain. However, anyone at any time can develop hydrocephalus from a brain injury, tumor, or infection, and some people over 60 develop Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, which is often, misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s.

Currently, the only way to treat the condition involves brain surgery. The primary treatment for hydrocephalus is the insertion of a device called a shunt – a small tube and a connected valve – into the brain to drain the excess fluid to another part of the body. Shunts save lives, but frequently malfunction, become infected, or blocked. It is not uncommon for a person with hydrocephalus to have ten or more shunt-related brain surgeries throughout their lifetime, and some individuals will undergo more than 100 surgical procedures.

This is why HA invests heavily in much needed research. Diana explained HA’s research strategy, noting that the organization funds young scientists who are looking for innovative treatments, hoping that their work will gain traction. It’s going well; after receiving 12 million dollars from Hydrocephalus Association, researchers have gone on to secure an additional 35 million in grants. Currently, there are ten different projects looking into drug therapies as an alternative to surgery. 

Listen to the whole interview to learn more about HA’s research program and the support and education HA offers patients and their families. Support our work by making a donation to fund vital research into a cure.