Simplified Explanation

Hydrocephalus is the accumulation of cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) around the brain and spinal cord causing abnormal pressure on the brain. Some signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus include: a rapid increase in head circumference or an unusually large head, vomiting, sleepiness, irritability, seizures, headaches, nausea, blurred vision, double vision, problems with balance and coordination, mental impairment, slow developmental progress, changes in personality, and memory loss. Hydrocephalus is diagnosed by a neurological evaluation by taking pictures through an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI.

Note: Hydrocephalus can mean many brain surgeries because the shunt can get infected, it can fail, and stitches can break off. Yet, this is only one of the issues Pfeiffer patients have to deal with.


A shunt (cerebral) is the most common treatment for hydrocephalus. A shunt is a system of a valve and catheters that are inserted into a brain ventricle to drain fluid out of the brain and into another body cavity, commonly the abdomen or chest cavities. A shunt to the abdomen is called a Ventriculo-Peritoneal Shunt (VP Shunt), and a shunt to the chest is called a Ventriculo-Atrial Shunt (VA Shunt). Shunts have the highest failure rate of any medically implanted device.

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