What is hydrocephalus?
The term “hydrocephalus” consists of two words: “hydro”, meaning water, and “cephalus”, meaning head. Hydrocephalus is a state in which an excess of cerebrospinal fluid (SPL) accumulates in the ventricles (cavities) of the brain and can lead to an excessive increase in pressure in the cavity of the skull. In fact, the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spine is normally present there always.The cerebrospinal fluid has three major functions:
- CSF protects the brain tissue from injury when jolted or hit, by providing a fluid buffer that acts as a shock absorber from some forms of mechanical injury.
- CSF allows for regulation of the distribution of substances between cells of the brain, and neuroendocrine factors, to which slight changes can cause problems or damage to the nervous system.
- The prevention of brain ischemia is made by decreasing the amount of CSF in the limited space inside the skull. This decreases total intracranial pressure and facilitates blood perfusion.
An adult produces about 400 ml of cerebrospinal fluid a day and the same amount is absorbed by special structures in the coats of the brain. When a trauma or illness disrupts the regulation of the production, circulation or absorption of cerebrospinal fluid, one or more of the cerebral ventricles increase as the cerebrospinal fluid accumulates. In an adult, the skull is not able to change its size and cannot expand, so the pressure in the brain can grow very significantly.