Hydrocephalus is caused by the body’s inability to properly drain the fluids which our brain makes constantly. Each day we produce more than half a liter of cerebral fluids. Normally these fluids enter the bloodstream but when this does not happen or the drainage is insufficient, the amount of fluids surrounding the brain will continue to increase.

The effects of hydrocephalus

Infants still have a flexible cranium. This allows for an abnormal expansion of the head in cases of hydrocephalus, creating the known form of a hydrocephalic head. When the pressure on the brain becomes too great, the situation becomes aggravated and the child can end up blind or even perish.

Why is hydrocephalus so prevailing in developing nations?

Hydrocephalus can be caused by spina bifida, but there are other causes identified such as cerebral hemorrhages, inflammations and tumors. In developing nations hydrocephalus is mainly linked to the inferior treatment of meningitis, a cerebral hemorrhage due low birth weight or birth in sub-optimal hygienic circumstances.

How can one treat hydrocephalus?

The treatment for hydrocephalus is to drain the collected fluids in the cranium.

Usually by means of a shunt, a drainage tube which gets implanted in the head and under the skin and allows drainage of the surplus fluids down to the diaphragm. Installing a shunt is a relatively simple procedure, although it is not completely without its risks in developing nations. The cost to acquire a shunt in Western Europe varies between €800 and €1600. The high cost is the reason why we use shunts from India costing only €47. Studies have found no difference in the results of using either type of shunt.

An alternative method of treatment is by means of endoscopic surgery where a natural bypass is created by opening the floor of the third ventricle, allowing the surplus of brain fluids to drain and be absorbed by the body. If the hydrocephalus is caused by an obstruction, an endoscopy can alleviate this obstruction. These types of surgeries are safer and more sustainable because they completely avoid the complications of a shunt.