Hydrocephalus comes from the Greek words hydro meaning water and cephalus meaning head.

Hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within cavities in the brain called ventricles. Cerebrospinal fluid is produced in the ventricles and in the choroid plexus. It circulates through the ventricular system in the brain and is absorbed into the bloodstream. This fluid is in constant circulation and has many functions, including to surround the brain and spinal cord and act as a protective cushion against injury. It contains nutrients and proteins necessary for the nourishment and normal function of the brain, and carries waste products away from surrounding tissues.

Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an imbalance between the amount of CSF that is produced and the rate at which it is absorbed. As the CSF builds up, it causes the ventricles to enlarge and the pressure inside the head to increase.

Hydrocephalus can affect the brain and a baby’s development. The extent of the problem is dependent on the severity of the hydrocephalus, and the presence of brain or other organ system problems.

(Source: Hydrocephalus Association)


There is currently no known way to prevent or cure hydrocephalus and the only treatment option today requires brain surgery. The most common treatment for hydrocephalus—and the most common procedure performed by pediatric neurosurgeons in the United States—is the surgical implantation of a device called a SHUNT. A shunt is a flexible tube placed into the ventricular system of the brain which diverts the flow of CSF into another region of the body, most often the abdominal cavity, where it can be absorbed. 

(Source: Hydrocephalus Association)