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  • Writer's pictureDr. Domenico Pratico

What is hydrocephalus? ~ Domenico Pratico, MD, FCPP

What is hydrocephalus? ~ Domenico Pratico, MD, FCPP

Hydrocephalus is a clinical condition caused by an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid inside the ventricles, cavities that we all have deep within the brain. This excess fluid causes the ventricles to progressively widen, putting harmful pressure on the brain's tissues surrounding them and compromising its normal function.


Hydrocephalus may be present at or shortly after birth, or in an adult and may result over time from an unrecognized damage or injury of the brain.


The cerebrospinal fluid is a clear fluid that we normally produce in certain amount with the final goal to protect and cushion our brain and spinal cord. It does so by continuously flowing through the ventricles and bathing the brain and spinal cord before being reabsorbed and eliminated into the bloodstream. The body typically produces enough of this fluid each day and absorbs the same amount so there is a constant equilibrium between production and elimination. However, for reasons at times not clear resulting for instance in less ability of the brain to eliminate the amount of fluid produced daily, an individual can experience an excess buildup of cerebrospinal fluid which with time can prevent the brain from functioning properly and cause irreversible brain damage or even death.


Symptoms of hydrocephalus can vary significantly from person to person and mostly depend on age. Adults or older children can experience blurred or double vision; headaches; nausea and vomiting; problems with balance, speech, or memory; sleepiness. In child signs of possible hydrocephalus are bulging soft spot on the top of baby’s head (fontanel); increasing head size (circumference); seizures.


Once it is diagnosed, and depending on the causes responsible for it, the condition can be treated directly by removing the cause of cerebrospinal fluid obstruction, or indirectly by diverting the excess fluid by surgically inserting in the ventricles a device known as a “shunt” that drains the excess of fluid away from the brain.

Domenico Praticò, MD, holds the position of the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research and serves as a Professor and the Director at the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple, as well as a Professor of Pharmacology at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

For more information on the research conducted by Dr. Domenico Pratico, please visit this link.

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Stay updated with the work happening at Dr. Domenico Pratico's lab by visiting the Pratico Lab website. 

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