Hydrocephalus in Children
Hydrocephalus is a condition involving the abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in and around the brain.
What is going on in the body?
The brain and spinal cord are collectively known as the central nervous system (CNS). A fluid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) surrounds the CNS. The CSF protects and nourishes the brain. The ventricles are a series of chambers inside the brain that contain and help circulate CSF. Normally, the CSF flows through the ventricles in the brain. It is then reabsorbed into the bloodstream through the membranes that line the skull and spinal canal.
Hydrocephalus may be classified as obstructive or nonobstructive. Obstructive hydrocephalus occurs when the circulation of CSF in the brain is blocked. Nonobstructive hydrocephalus occurs when something interferes with the reabsorption of CSF into the bloodstream. As the CSF accumulates, the ventricles enlarge. They press on the soft tissue of the brain and cause the symptoms of hydrocephalus.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Obstructive hydrocephalus can be caused by:
bleeding inside the brain
cysts, which are fluid-filled masses
an inherited abnormality of the brain present at birth
meningitis, an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain
meningomyelocele, a severe form of spina bifida in which the spinal cord protrudes outside the body
tumors that block the flow of CSF within the brain
viral infections in the brain of a fetus, which may be caused by a TORCH infection in the mother
Nonobstructive hydrocephalus can be caused by:
bleeding over the surface of the brain, which can clog the membranes that reabsorb CSF
leukemia, a type of blood cancer
Premature infants are at increased risk for developing this condition. This is because premature babies are more likely to develop bleeding inside or around the brain. The blood can block the membranes that reabsorb CSF, causing hydrocephalus. This risk rises with the degree of prematurity.