What is Hydrocephalus?

Rebound’s multidisciplinary team of specialized brain and spine neurosurgery physicians are equipped with the latest technologies geared toward improving patients’ quality of life. All of our neurosurgery doctors are board certified and provide care for a variety of conditions that affect the brain and spine, including hydrocephalus, a condition that is typically treated surgically.

What is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is condition that involves an exorbitant buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.

“The term ‘hydrocephalus’ quite literally represents the condition,” says Dr. Ashok Modha. “’Hydro’ is Greek for water, and ‘cephalus’ is Greek for head. This buildup of fluid results widened ventricles, which causes damaging pressure on the brain.”

What is Cerebrospinal Fluid?

Cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, is a colorless fluid created in the ventricles and choroid plexus of the brain. This fluid plays an important role for the brain and spinal cord. CSF protects the brain and spinal cord by serving as a cushion, nutrient supplier and disposer of waste.

What are the Symptoms of Hydrocephalus?

“Symptoms of hydrocephalus often correlate with age and severity of the condition,” says Dr. Modha.

Infants are typically able to make room for the buildup of fluid more easily than adults. This is because the connecting joints of an infant’s skull have not closed, which often makes the head appear enlarged (circumference). The enlargement of an infant’s head is typically the first indicator of possible hydrocephalus.

Other symptoms for infants and children include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Downward deviation of eyes
  • Headaches and vision problems
  • Sleepiness and irritability

Unlike infants, adults’ skulls aren’t able to accommodate, and they most commonly experience chronic headaches, vision and dizziness.

Other symptoms include:

  • Balance issues
  • Difficulty walking
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness and irritability
  • Vision problems
  • Urinary incontinence

Older adults with hydrocephalus commonly experience cognitive problems, incontinence and difficulty walking.

What Causes Hydrocephalus?

“Because hydrocephalus can be congenital or acquired, it affects a broad range of people of all ages, and is one of the most common reasons for pediatric brain surgery,” says Dr. Modha.

In some instances, hydrocephalus can develop due to another condition. Learn about the causes of congenital and acquired hydrocephalus here.

What are the Treatment Options for Hydrocephalus?


  • Shunts are flexible tubes that are placed into the ventricles of the brain to direct the flow of fluid to a different cavity of the body. This is one of the most common forms of treatment for hydrocephalus.


  • This procedure is not as commonly used for the treatment of hydrocephalus, but serves as an alternative. During endoscopic third ventriculostomy, or ETV, a neurosurgeon uses an endoscope (small camera) to enter the third ventricle of the brain. Then, using a small surgical tool, the neurosurgeon creates a puncture in the floor of the ventricle. This allows the fluid to flow unobstructed inside the brain’s cavities.


Rebound Resources:

Rebound Brain & Spine Neurosurgery Team and Services

What is Endoscopic Brain Surgery?

What is Craniotomy and What is it Used to Treat?


Trusted Resources:

NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke – Hydrocephalus Fact Sheet

Hydrocephalus Association – Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus Association – Brain Physiology Relevant to Hydrocephalus