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Hydrocephalus is a condition that is caused by too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inside the ventricles of your brain. Ventricles are spaces inside the brain where cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced. CSF surrounds your brain and spinal cord. CSF is constantly being made and absorbed by your body. It moves through ventricles before it drains out and gets absorbed into your bloodstream. When CSF cannot drain properly, the fluid pressure may cause the ventricles to swell.



Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.


  • Steroids: Steroid medicine is given to decrease inflammation. Steroids also can help lower the amount of CSF your body makes.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.


  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to check for infections. You may need to have blood drawn more than once.
  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your brain. An MRI may show aqueductal stenosis, tumors, or cysts. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your brain ventricles and to check for bleeding or excess fluid. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Lumbar puncture: This may also be called a spinal tap. Caregivers put a needle into your back to collect CSF from around your spine. The CSF may be tested for infection. Caregivers may check the CSF pressure. Lumbar punctures can also help caregivers plan surgery.
  • Lumbar drainage: Caregivers use a needle to insert a catheter (tube) to drain CSF from around your spine for up to 5 days. This test is done to see if surgery to drain CSF fluid would relieve your signs and symptoms.
  • Intracranial pressure monitoring: This is also called ICP monitoring. A small tube is put through your skull. The other end is connected to a monitor. Caregivers use ICP monitoring to keep an ongoing measurement of the pressure inside your skull.
  • Cisternography: Caregivers inject a tracer (radioactive substance) to watch how CSF moves through your brain and spinal canal for 1 to 3 days.


  • Surgery:
    • Shunt placement: A shunt (catheter) is placed inside a brain ventricle or around your spine to drain CSF. A plastic tube is attached to the catheter. The tube drains into your chest or abdomen, where your body absorbs the excess CSF. A valve on the tube helps slow down or speed up the CSF drainage.
    • Ventriculostomy: This is also called endoscopic third ventriculostomy or ETV. Your caregiver uses a tool called an endoscope to look into the brain and ventricles. An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end. Caregivers make a small hole in a ventricle to allow the CSF to drain and be absorbed by the body.
    • Tumor or cyst removal: Your caregiver may remove a cyst or tumor from your brain to relieve a blockage, if needed.


  • After a shunt placement, the shunt valve may need adjustments if there are any problems. Headaches and other hydrocephalus symptoms may return. You may feel sleepy or confused. You may not be able to move one side of your body. Tell your caregivers about any of these symptoms right away so they can adjust your shunt valve and check for other problems. Your shunt can also become blocked or stop working. You will need another surgery to fix a blocked shunt. You may also be at risk for an infection after surgery, which can be life-threatening.
  • Without treatment, symptoms such as headaches, vision problems, or seizures may become worse. You may develop incontinence (leaking urine). Your ability to think clearly may get worse. Over time, the pressure on your brain caused by hydrocephalus may be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.