Idiopathic hydrocephalus in children and idiopathic intracranial hypertension in adults: two manifestations of the same pathophysiological process?

J Neurosurg. 2007 Dec;107(6 Suppl):439-44. doi: 10.3171/PED-07/12/439.


Object: Both idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) in adults and idiopathic hydrocephalus in children have been shown to involve elevations in venous pressure that resolve once the cerebrospinal fluid pressure is reduced. It has been assumed that the venous pressure elevations in both conditions are not hemodynamically significant, but measurement of venous collateral flow in IIH has shown these pressure elevations to be of consequence. The authors used the same methodology to see if the venous pressure elevations noted in childhood hydrocephalus are important.

Methods: Fourteen patients with idiopathic childhood hydrocephalus underwent magnetic resonance imaging with flow quantification. The degree of ventricular enlargement, total blood inflow, and superior sagittal/straight sinus outflow was measured. The degree of collateral venous flow was calculated for each venous territory. The findings were compared with findings in 14 age-matched controls.

Results: In children with hydrocephalus the cerebral blood inflow was normal, but the superior sagittal sinus (SSS) and straight sinus outflows were reduced by 27% and 38%, respectively, compared with measurements in controls (p = 0.03 and 0.002). These findings suggest that approximately 150 ml of blood per minute was returning via collateral channels from that portion of the brain drained by the SSS, and 60 ml/minute was returning from collaterals in the deep venous territory.

Conclusions: Similarly to patients with IIH, children with hydrocephalus show a significant elevation in collateral venous flow, indicating that the same venous pathophysiological process may be operating in both conditions. Whether or not the ventricles dilate may depend on the differences in brain compliance between adults and children.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Aqueduct / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Ventricles / pathology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Hydrocephalus / pathology
  • Hydrocephalus / physiopathology*
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri / pathology
  • Pseudotumor Cerebri / physiopathology*
  • Superior Sagittal Sinus / physiopathology