Uganda

Curing Water on the Brain

Challenge

In places where access to neurosurgery is limited, children with untreated hydrocephalus often do not survive or suffer significant cognitive disabilities. Traditional treatment of hydrocephalus — insertion of shunts — is prohibitively expensive and requires sustained medical monitoring beyond the reach of most children in the developing world.

Where We Started

Benjamin Warf, MD, the Director of the Neonatal and Congenital Anomaly Neurosurgery Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, became medical director and chief of surgery at the CURE Children’s Hospital in a remote town in eastern Uganda, where he encountered a high incidence of hydrocephalus. Dr. Warf, a pediatric neurosurgeon, revolutionized the treatment of intracranial diseases in very young children, in particular spina bifida and hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”).

Our Impact

In response to the challenges of treating hydrocephalus in Uganda, Dr. Warf pioneered a low-cost alternative. In carefully designed clinical trials, he demonstrated that a relatively straightforward, one-time treatment using modern endoscopic techniques results in outcomes that are at least as safe and effective as ventricular shunts but requires far less medical infrastructure and post-surgical maintenance. This innovative idea has become standard practice globally, including at Boston Children’s. Dr. Warf has also designed a training program and network for neurosurgeons throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, increasing exponentially the number of children who can be treated using his method. He also helped form the PUSH! Global Alliance as a platform for organizations to advance treatment and care to those affected by spina bifida and hydrocephalus worldwide.

You Can Make a Difference

With additional support, we can continue to innovate globally, improving care abroad and in Boston.