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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital


Hydrocephalus, whether congenital or acquired, is usually treated by a pediatric neurosurgeon. Hydrocephalus--water on the brain--can be caused by several factors.

Spinal Fluid Obstruction

In children, one common cause of hydrocephalus is stenosis--or narrowing of the channels that carry cerebrospinal fluid from the brain ventricles to the brain stem. University of Chicago pediatric neurosurgeons often treat obstruction by using an endoscope--a thin tube that carries a camera and microinstruments into the brain--to divert spinal fluid from around the blockage. This procedure is noninvasive.

Spinal Fluid Re-Absorption

Hydrocephalus is more commonly caused by an inability to re-absorb the spinal fluid over the top of the brain. Re-absorption problems can be caused by many factors, including:

  • Bleeding within ventricles of the brain that clog the pores of re-absorption
  • Infections in the cerebrospinal fluid, such as meningitis that clog reabsorption

Uniform enlargement of all of the brain ventricles is one of the signs of this type of hydrocephalus. When a child has this condition, our experts typically insert a shunt into the brain in order to divert cerebrospinal fluid to another area of the body--usually the abdomen. Other locations where spinal fluid can be re-absorbed are in the area surrounding the lungs and the right atrium of the heart.

Advanced Technology

The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital offers the most advanced shunting technology. We use specially designed tubing and valves for basic shunting of cerebrospinal fluid--limiting over drainage and providing even fluid flow. Our experts use their knowledge of this diverse technology to design the best shunt system for each child. In addition, the University of Chicago is a leader in the implementation of pressure monitoring technology for fine-tuning of shunting systems.

There are a number of other technological advances in shunts that continue to help children with hydrocephalus. We frequently use a noninvasive device to sense intraventricular pressure in a child with a shunt. Our patients often do not need to have a CT scan or direct sampling of cerebrospinal fluid with a needle in order to find shunt malfunctions. Our advanced techniques provide patient comfort for children with hydrocephalus.