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Hydrocephalus Program Overview

The word “hydrocephalus” is derived from the Greek words for “water” and “head” and roughly translates to “water on the brain.” It refers to a condition, affecting about 1 in every 500 babies born, in which excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) builds up in the brain, sometimes causing the head to swell and putting pressure on sensitive brain tissue. Left untreated, hydrocephalus can cause serious health and cognitive problems. Fortunately, in most cases the condition can be safely and effectively treated. A new approach to treatment called endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) deploys innovative surgical tools to liberate the natural flow of CSF throughout the central nervous system and, in some cases, to reduce the amount of fluid produced. This new technique, pioneered here at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, is safe and effective, and it avoids many of the risks associated with the traditional approach. Until recently, the only effective way to treat hydrocephalus was to permanently implant a synthetic tube, called a shunt, to drain excess CSF from the brain to the abdominal cavity, where it could be absorbed by the body. Because the new method, ETV, does not require a shunt, it reduces the risk of infection and eliminates the need for more surgical procedures later in life for many hydrocephalus patients. Read more about the condition and treatment of hydrocephalus.

Watch this interactive 3-D animation as chief pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Gerald Grant explains hydrocephalus and guides you through both the traditional surgical treatment and the innovative repair technique called ETV.