Inside the brain are cavities called ventricles that produce cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid offers nourishment and protection for the brain and spinal cord by  surrounding the brain and draining  into the spinal column.  This fluid reabsorbed into the bloodstream.

Hydrocephalus occurs when there is a problem with this process causing increased pressure from fluid buildup in the ventricles. Hydrocephalus (sometimes called “water on the brain”) is derived from two Greek words – hydor meaning water and kephale meaning head. Many children with myelomeningocele have hydrocephalus and need to have a shunt inserted to relieve the pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid accumulation in their head.  The fluid build-up that forms in the ventricles can be caused by a disturbance of formation, flow, or absorption or an increased production of the fluid.  if left untreated, hydrocephalus can result in  brain damage.

There are several symptoms to look for.

  • downward deviation of baby’s eyes                 feeding problems
  • Irritability                                                                         sleepiness
  • vomiting                                                                            soft spot  bulging

Symptoms seen in older children include:

  • blurred /double vision                                              headache
  • delayed development                                               nausea
  • poor coordination/ balance                                  vomiting
  • changes in sleeping pattern                                  inability to remember
  • irritability and personality changes
  • inability to concentrate
  • declining school performance

The device used to repair hydrocephalus is called a shunt. It is simply a device made of tubes and a valve that drains the excess cerebrospinal fluid  into the abdomen .  One end of the  tube is most commonly placed in the ventricle and the other end drains into the abdomen area. The shunt is meant to stay in place for life but revisions are sometimes necessary from time to time.


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