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 vomitting
- 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.