Pediatric Hydrocephalus

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About Pediatric Hydrocephalus

General Information

  • Hydrocephalus results from the imbalance between production and absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), usually because of an obstruction of normal flow of CSF from where it is formed to where it is absorbed.
  • In infants, the obstruction may be caused by narrowing of certain CSF passageways, perinatal infection or hemorrhage, inflammation that follows intraventricular hemorrhage of low birth-weight newborns, or malformations associated with myelomeningocele.
  • Less frequently pediatric hydrocephalus is related to more complex genetic disease, or results from a tumor or other growth within the skull.
  • If untreated, hydrocephalic patients have a high mortality rate and severe mental retardation occurs in many of the survivors.
  • The overall incidence of hydrocephalus is 3 to 4 cases per 1,000 births.


  • Primary symptoms are abnormal increase in head circumference and pressure on the brain.


  • Surgeons implant a shunt system that diverts the CSF from the ventricles into another body cavity.


  • Since the advent of the modern ventricular shunt era in the 1960s, numerous studies have documented the effectiveness of these shunts in treating hydrocephalus.
  • Over the last 40 years research and application has provided a gradual increase in the quality of the shunt apparatus, a general decrease in catastrophic failures and an improved quality of life for hydrocephalic patients.
  • Even those patients with a fully functioning uncomplicated shunt can be neurologically and cognitively impaired. Up to 60 percent of individuals with shunts have moderate to severe deficits.
  • In addition to potential complications such as infection and catheter problems, existing conditions also can lead to shunt failure.
  • The Pediatric Neurosurgery Program at UCLA has an outstanding record of successful shunt surgeries with negligible incidence of infection or shunt obstruction.