Adult Hydrocephalus Program

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Adult Hydrocephalus Program

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Hydrocephalus occurs when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. Infants, children and adults can develop hydrocephalus. When hydrocephalus is present at birth it is called congenital. Sometimes an illness or injury will trigger hydrocephalus later in life.

Specialists at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute have a lot of experience in diagnosing and treating hydrocephalus in adults.

What is hydrocephalus? 

Your brain produces cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to help protect and cleanse your brain. CSF is a clear liquid. Normally, the human brain contains about 140 milliliters (a little less than five ounces) of CSF.

CSF flows around your brain and through cavities in your brain called ventricles. After the fluid travels through your brain, it drains into your bloodstream. Your brain produces new CSF every six to eight hours, so the flow-drain process is continuous.

Normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid animation

Hydrocephalus occurs when CSF builds up faster than it can drain. This extra fluid is the reason some people refer to hydrocephalus as "water on the brain."

What happens when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid?

Because an adult’s skull can’t expand, too much CSF may affect how your brain works. Sometimes too much CSF will just make your ventricles larger. At other times, it will make your ventricles larger and also increase pressure inside your skull (intracranial). And, sometimes pressure inside your skull may increase, but your ventricles don’t get larger. 

Three conditions are related to this increased pressure and/or increased size of the ventricles. They are:

Because the brain is the body’s command center, any changes in your brain may cause symptoms in other parts of your body.

Read Our Patient Stories

Dianna Chilgren

Concert pianist Dianne Chilgren thought the problems she had walking and balancing meant she might have multiple sclerosis. She learned instead that she had normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Read Dianne’s story

Thomas Davis

Thomas Davis was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He took medication for four years until the experts at Swedish told him he didn’t have Parkinson’s – he had normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Read Tom's story

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For an appointment or referral, call 425-313-7077.