Hydrocephalus treatment

Older gentleman recovering from hydrocephalus at The Christ Hospital.

​The sooner hydrocephalus is diagnosed, the better your chances are for treatment and recovery. The goal of treatment is to reduce excessive fluid and pressure on the brain and restore the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid. How a patient reacts to treatment for hydrocephalus depends on individual symptoms and a timely diagnosis. 

Two effective treatment options are:

  • Shunt—a drainage system that is surgically inserted to help cerebrospinal fluid flow in the right direction and at a normal rate. Shunt surgery is typically well tolerated, often taking less than one hour. Under general anesthesia, a small hole (the diameter of a quarter) is drilled into the skull to pass a tiny catheter (tube) into the ventricle of the brain. This catheter is then attached to a valve that regulates the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid. The valve then drains the fluid elsewhere in the body, away from the brain. Typically a shunt starts working immediately, and often patients have improved symptoms within hours of surgery. 

  • Ventriculostomy—an alternative to having a shunt inserted. The surgeon makes a hole that drains excess cerebrospinal fluid from the head to an external collection device. This system includes a small tube, a drainage bag and a monitor. This is a temporary measure when the need for long-term shunting is unlikely.

Sometimes surgery and shunts can cause complications that may include: 

  • Bleeding

  • Improper drainage

  • Infection

One or more of these symptoms require immediate medical attention.

Prompt and effective treatment of hydrocephalus is the most important factor in long-term prognosis and recovery.  

Find out more about hydrocephalus care at The Christ Hospital Health Network.