Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Hydrocephalus - General Overview

General Overview


Hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the cavities of the brain called ventricles

Causes of Hydrocephalus

The causes of hydrocephalus are not all well understood. Sometimes it can result from an inherited genetic defect. Other possible causes include premature birth, bleeding in the head, meningitis, tumors, brain injuries, and disorders such as spina bifida.


The diagnosis is usually made with an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI of the head. Prior to diagnosis children may have symptoms like increased head growth, vomiting nausea, problems walking, or vision problems.  

How many people have Hydrocephalus

It is reported that 2 of every 1000 babies is born with hydrocephalus

Associated developmental and learning issues

Many children with hydrocephalus have developmental delays or difficulty learning.  The degree of delay usually has to do with the cause of the hydrocephalus.  Some children have difficulties in the following areas:

  • Learning: Children with hydrocephalus sometimes learn all skills at a slower pace than other children, or have learning disabilities.  They benefit from educational interventions.
  • Motor skills: Young children may be slow in developing motor skills. 
  • Delayed speech skills
  • Difficulty with social skills (playing and interacting appropriately with other children)

Associated medical conditions

Some children with Hydrocephalus have other health complications. It is important that these are recognized and treated. A child with Hydrocephalus who is physically healthy is more likely to do well in school and in other treatments. This contributes to more independence, better daily functioning, and better quality of life. 

Common health problems include:

  • Eye & vision problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Low muscle tone (hypotonia)
  • Seizures

Associated behavioral conditions

  • ADHD

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