Hydrocephalus Specialist

David Newell, MD

Cerebrovascular, Spinal, and Brain Tumor Neurosurgery located in Bellevue, WA

Hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, can lead to brain swelling, brain damage, and even death. David Newell, MD is a nationally and internationally recognized neurologist who treats a wide range of brain conditions, including hydrocephalus. For expert neurological care from an expert you can trust, call Dr. Newell’s Seattle office in Washington or schedule an appointment online today.

Hydrocephalus Q & A

What is hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus occurs when fluid builds up within your skull and leads to brain swelling. This fluid buildup can cause brain damage that leads to intellectual, physical, and developmental impairment. Hydrocephalus is a serious condition requiring immediate attention to avoid serious complications.

While hydrocephalus is most common in children and adults over 60, anyone can develop the condition. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates that one to two out of every 1,000 babies are born with hydrocephalus.

What causes hydrocephalus?

Under normal conditions, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flows through your spinal cord and brain. Certain conditions can prompt the amount of CSF in your brain to increase, such as:

  • A blockage that prevents the normal flow of CSF
  • Excess CSF production in the brain
  • Poor CSF absorption by blood vessels

When hydrocephalus begins before birth, it’s often due to a genetic abnormality, a birth defect in the spinal column, or an infection during pregnancy.

Common causes of hydrocephalus in men, women, and children of all ages include infections like meningitis, head injuries, bleeding in the brain, and brain surgery. In some cases, a tumor in the central nervous system can lead to fluid buildup around the brain.

What are the symptoms of hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus symptoms in infants and young children often include:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Poor feeding and extreme fussiness
  • Low strength and muscle tone or poor coordination
  • High-pitched cries
  • Loss of bladder control
  • A rapid increase in head circumference or a bulging fontanel (soft spot)
  • Eyes that are fixed in a downward position or crossed
  • Personality changes or irritability
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Headaches
  • Seizures

Older children and adults often experience poor memory, difficulty concentrating or walking, chronic headaches, or bladder, bowel, and vision problems.

How is hydrocephalus diagnosed and treated?

To diagnose hydrocephalus, Dr. Newell performs a full physical examination. Based on the symptoms or signs present, he might also conduct imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan.

Treatment for hydrocephalus reduces the risk of additional brain damage due to swelling. Without treatment, hydrocephalus can be fatal. To restore normal CSF flow, Dr. Newell may recommend surgery, such as a shunt insertion or a ventriculostomy, to drain excess fluid from your brain.

To learn more about hydrocephalus therapies, call David Newell, MD or schedule an appointment online.