Hydrocephalus is the buildup of fluid in the cavities (ventricles) deep within the brain.
This condition can be congenital and acquired and is accompanied by serious complications.
In this disease, the balance between the formation, circulation and absorption of cerebrospinal fluid is disturbed. The causes of hydrocephalus are not completely clear.
Hydrocephalus in a child is usually the result of hereditary genetic abnormalities and congenital disorders of the brain and spinal cord. It can also occur after preterm birth, during which there was a hemorrhage in the brain ventricles of the newborn.
Hydrocephalus of the brain in an adult can have the following reasons:
- brain tumors;
- traumatic brain injury;
- subarachnoid hemorrhage;
- other conditions that impede the exit of cerebrospinal fluid from the ventricles into the cisterns of the brain.
Classification of the disease
There are three main forms of pathology:
- occlusive hydrocephalus, or internal, – a condition in which fluid does not flow out of the ventricles, while the space around the brain is compressed;
- non-occlusive hydrocephalus, or external, – fluid can fall from the ventricles into the space between the brain and its membranes, while they expand and squeeze the nerve tissue from the outside;
- mixed hydrocephalus – a combination of several blocks of cerebrospinal fluid outflow pathways.
External replacement hydrocephalus is a severe form in which the substance of the cerebral cortex atrophies and an excess of fluid takes its place. A synonym for this condition is atrophic hydrocephalus.
Also, the disease is subdivided into post-traumatic, post-infectious and post-hemorrhagic forms. Hydrocephaly can be progressive (active) and chronic (compensated). It is accompanied by an increase in intracranial pressure.
Symptoms and signs
External hydrocephalus is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- disproportionately large skull in a child, divergence of sutures, enlarged fontanelle;
- nausea and vomiting;
- intense headache;
- decrease in intelligence, memory, hearing, vision;
- speech disorders.
Moderate external hydrocephalus appears gradually, and its symptoms are often mild. The progression of the disease is accompanied by:
- mental disorders;
- violation of motor functions, balance;
- violation of mental activity.
Hydrocephalus in adults is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- intense, refractory headache;
- vestibular disorders;
- loss of visual fields;
- paralysis of the limbs;
- lack of skin sensitivity.
Internal hydrocephalus mainly affects the structures of the cerebellum: gait is disturbed, coordination of movements is lost, handwriting becomes uneven and large.
Symptoms of hydrocephalus require urgent medical attention, as this disease can cause irreversible consequences.
The disease is diagnosed on the basis of complaints, medical history, and neurological examination data. To confirm the diagnosis, the following methods are used:
- ultrasound of the brain;
- computed or magnetic resonance imaging;
- X-ray of the skull;
- spinal puncture with an examination of cerebrospinal fluid.
In this disease, drugs are ineffective. Hydrocephalus is treated surgically. During the operation, the doctor installs a shunting system that allows the cerebrospinal fluid to flow normally from the brain cavities into the abdominal cavity, less often into the heart chamber or pleural cavity. The shunt system is equipped with a valve to prevent liquid backflow.
In some patients, ventriculostomy may be used. This is an endoscopic operation in which the surgeon makes a small hole in the wall of the third ventricle of the brain. Through it, then there is a normal outflow of cerebrospinal fluid.
Natural remedies for hydrocephalus are of limited use. You can use tinctures of mint, lemon balm, cornflower, astragalus, calamus, buckthorn berries.
Prevention and consequences of hydrocephalus
The prognosis for this disease is difficult to determine. It largely depends on the degree of irreversible brain damage and on how early treatment was started.
The consequences of hydrocephalus include physical and mental retardation. However, with the correct rehabilitation program, many children with this diagnosis can lead a normal life with minor restrictions.
With a progressive form of pathology, the prognosis is poor.
On the other hand, even the performed bypass surgery is not always accompanied by a complete recovery. The factors on which this depends are not fully understood.
Therefore, prevention of the disease is important:
- if necessary – genetic counseling for expectant mothers;
- protection against infectious diseases during pregnancy;
- prevention of craniocerebral and birth injuries;
- vaccination against pneumococcus, which protects against meningitis;
- timely diagnosis and treatment of diseases that cause hydrocephalus in adults.