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Just a few decades ago, children with hydrocephalus—the buildup of excess fluid in the brain—faced only one possible course of treatment: the use of a device called a shunt to drain the excess fluid. In the video above, neurosurgeon Benjamin Warf, MD—whose pioneering work has earned him a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-- demonstrates a one-time, minimally invasive technique—which he originally developed in Africa—which allows some children to avoid the need for shunts.
The following pages will introduce you to the basics about hydrocephalus (which is also referred to as “water on the brain”), as well as the treatment methods for hydrocephalus —both traditional and emerging—that Children’s uses to treat babies and children.
Hydrocephalus can occur if:
The buildup of too much fluid in the brain creates abnormally high pressure within the skull. If this pressure isn’t relieved, the tissues in the central nervous system can be damaged, blood flow throughout the brain and skull can become dangerously restricted and neurological function can be compromised or lost.
Sometimes, hydrocephalus is a complication of another condition, such as:
The long-term outlook for a child with hydrocephalus depends greatly on many factors, including how old the child is when symptoms emerge, what causes the problem and how severe the symptoms are.
How Boston Children's Hospital approaches hydrocephalus
Physicians at Boston Children's Hospital have been leaders in treating hydrocephalus for decades. Many decades ago, Children's became the first hospital in the world to treat children with hydrocephalus by rerouting—in a process known as shunting—excess fluid from the brain into another body cavity. In the years since, clinicians in our Hydrocephalus Program have:
Our approaches to treating hydrocephalus are both patient-focused and family-centered. We never lose sight of the fact that your child is, first and foremost, an individual—not merely a patient—and we include your family at every stage of the treatment process.
Hydrocephalus: Reviewed by Benjamin Warf, MD
© Boston Children’s Hospital; posted in 2011
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