Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

One of two surgical treatments may be used to treat hydrocephalus.

Shunt

The most common treatment for hydrocephalus is the surgical insertion of a drainage system, called a shunt. It consists of a long, flexible tube with a valve that keeps fluid from the brain flowing in the right direction and at the proper rate. One end of the tubing is usually placed in one of the brain's ventricles. The tubing is then tunneled under the skin to another part of the body where the excess cerebrospinal fluid can be more easily absorbed — such as the abdomen or a chamber in the heart.

People who have hydrocephalus usually need a shunt system for the rest of their lives, and regular monitoring is required.

Endoscopic third ventriculostomy

Endoscopic third ventriculostomy is a surgical procedure that can be used for some people. In the procedure, your surgeon uses a small video camera to have direct vision inside the brain and makes a hole in the bottom of one of the ventricles or between the ventricles to enable cerebrospinal fluid to flow out of the brain.

Complications of surgery

Both surgical procedures can result in complications. Shunt systems can stop draining cerebrospinal fluid or poorly regulate drainage because of mechanical malfunctions, blockage or infections. Complications of ventriculostomy include bleeding and infections.

Any failure requires prompt attention, surgical revisions or other interventions. Signs and symptoms of problems may include:

  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Vision problems
  • Redness, pain or tenderness of the skin along the path of the shunt tube
  • Abdominal pain when the shunt valve is in the abdomen
  • Recurrence of any of the initial hydrocephalus symptoms

Other treatments

Some people with hydrocephalus, particularly children, may need additional treatment, depending on the severity of long-term complications of hydrocephalus.

A care team for children may include a:

  • Pediatrician or physiatrist, who oversees the treatment plan and medical care
  • Pediatric neurologist, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders in children
  • Occupational therapist, who specializes in therapy to develop everyday skills
  • Developmental therapist, who specializes in therapy to help your child develop age-appropriate behaviors, social skills and interpersonal skills
  • Mental health provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist
  • Social worker, who assists the family with accessing services and planning for transitions in care
  • Special education teacher, who addresses learning disabilities, determines educational needs and identifies appropriate educational resources

Adults with more severe complications also may require the services of occupational therapists, social workers, specialists in dementia care or other medical specialists.

Aug. 02, 2014

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