Hydrocephalus Program | Overview

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Contact the Hydrocephalus Program

  • 1-617-355-6008
  • International: +1-617-355-5209

Sixty years ago, Boston Children's Hospital became the first hospital in the world to treat children with hydrocephalus by rerouting excess fluid from the brain into another body cavity (in a process known as shunting).

In the years since, physicians in Boston Children's Hydrocephalus Program have:

  • designed and tested the next generation of shunting devices, including the externally programmable shunt
  • helped refine the use of minimally invasive surgical techniques—like the landmark endoscopic third ventriculostomy procedure—to more effectively treat hydrocephalus while minimizing stress and shortening the aftercare process for patients
  • taught the promising endoscopic third ventriculostomy technique and other less invasive, potentially life-saving treatments to pediatric neurosurgeons around the world

About pediatric hydrocephalus

  • Approximately one in 500 infants are born with hydrocephalus or acquire it shortly after birth.
  • The condition can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired later in life.
  • It can result from congenital defects, injury, infection or tumors.
  • Pressure in the skull can lead to headaches, irritability, vomiting, loss of motor function and seizures.
  • In young children, the sutures between the skull have not yet fused. Increased pressure can cause a rapid increase in head size or bulging.

About Boston Children's Hydrocephalus Program

Boston Children's Hospital's Hydrocephalus Program treats children with every form of hydrocephalus—the all-encompassing term used to describe any increase in the volume of cerebrospinal fluid within, or surrounding, the brain.

Regardless of the particular circumstances of a child's hydrocephalus, safely and quickly diverting the excess fluid is essential.

Here in our Pediatric Hydrocephalus Program, our Specialists:

Our Hydrocephalus Program clinicians are also engaged in important scientific research with great promise for better understanding, treatment and—one day—prevention of hydrocephalus and other neurological disorders. Some of our current research projects include:

  • analyzing crucial periods in a child's brain development
  • understanding the biological mechanisms of brain injury
  • examining the role of molecular genetics in conditions like hydrocephalus

In the news

Warf receives grant from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Benjamin Warf Hydrocephalus Treatment in UgandaBoston Children’s neurosurgeon Benjamin Warf, MD, has been named a 2012 MacArthur fellow, receiving a five-year, $500,000, “genius” award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Read more about Dr. Warf and his recent research on pediatric hydrocephalus—as well as the one-time, minimally invasive operation he developed in Africa and is sharing with colleagues at Boston Children’s and around the world.

Hydrocephalus: Tackling a global health problem

Patient with Hydrocephalus from Uganda

Benjamin Warf, MD, testified before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. John Mugamba, MD, whom Warf trained and who is currently medical director at CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda, gave testimony in video form. Learn about Dr. Warf's work with hydrocephalus

Building neurosurgical care in the heart of Africa: One doctor's story 

Dr Warf Hydrocephalus ProgramIn 2000, Benjamin Warf sold his house and a small farm in Kentucky and left his position as Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the University of Kentucky.

After giving away most of their possessions, Warf, his six children, and his wife boarded a plane for Uganda, believing they were leaving the United States for good. Read more about building neurosurgical care in the heart of Africa.

Boston Children’s is so much more than a hospital—it’s a community of researchers, clinicians, administrators, support staff, innovators, teachers, patients and families, all working together to make the impossible possible. ”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital
300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
For Patients: 617-355-6000
For Referring Providers: 844-BCH-PEDS | 844-224-7337