Surgery of hydrocephalus: past, present and future

Acta Neurochir (Wien). 1992;116(2-4):155-60. doi: 10.1007/BF01540869.


The treatment of hydrocephalus, over the centuries, underwent three stages of evolution. During antiquity, middle ages and Renaissance, hydrocephalus was not understood. Medical treatment was useless; surgery was hopeless. The second stage extends from the XIXth century to the end of the first half of the XXth century. CSF circulation was now understood; surgery however, remained inefficient, but some patients survived with arrested hydrocephalus. The third stage begins in the nineteen fifties with the development of silicone shunts with a valve. Surgery transforms the prognosis of hydrocephalus, but the number of post-operative complications creates new problems. The different attempts that have been made during these past two decades to solve these problems are reviewed. They have resulted in a reduction of the mechanical and infectious complications. CSF overdrainage has been minimized. Percutaneous ventriculo-cisternostomies have in some cases replaced shunts. In the future, to improve outcome in these hydrocephalics, surgery, when indicated, should be performed as early as possible. Knowledge and prevention of the causes of hydrocephalus should be developed.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure / physiology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Shunts / history
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Shunts / instrumentation*
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus / history
  • Hydrocephalus / surgery*
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Quality of Life
  • Survival Rate