Hydrocephalus in children

J Pak Med Assoc. 2005 Nov;55(11):502-7.


The word "hydrocephalus" is derived from two Greek words: hydro meaning water; and cephalus meaning head; also known as "water on the brain". Historically it is believed to result from imbalance between CSF production and absorption, with net accumulation of fluid in the cranial cavity; characterized by increase in size of the cerebral ventricles. It is classified as: Communicating hydrocephalus, in which flow is not obstructed, but CSF is inadequately reabsorbed in the subarachnoid space and the Non-communicating hydrocephalus or the Obstructive type, in which flow of CSF from the ventricles to subarachnoid space is obstructed. This type may also be sub-classified into Congenital and Acquired. The overall incidence of hydrocephalus is not known. Approximately 55% of all hydrocephalus are congenital. The etiology depends upon the age of the child. The clinical features are increase in the size of head, with wide anterior fontanelle, prominent scalp veins, sun-setting eyes, optic nerve atrophy, nystagmus and increased muscle tone in children upto 2 years. Children more than 2 years may present with these as hydrocephalus progresses; or if the fontanelles are closed, head size may be normal. These may present with optic atrophy or papilloedema, abnormal hypothalamic functions (short stature or gigantism, obesity, delayed puberty, primary amenorrhea or menstrual irregularity and diabetes inspidus) and spastic lower limbs. Performance IQ is worse than verbal IQ and learning problems are common. The diagnostic procedures include measurement of head circumference, Plain X ray of head, Ventriculography, Pneumoencephalography, Ultrasonography, Computed Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The management may be non-surgical and surgical.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Shunts*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Heart Atria
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Hydrocephalus / diagnosis*
  • Hydrocephalus / surgery*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pakistan / epidemiology
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors