Hydrocephalus, sometimes called “water on the brain,” is a condition where cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) accumulates in the ventricles of the brain. This causes the expansion of the ventricles which displaces the brain, sometimes causing brain damage due to the intracranial pressure. The condition happens when a blockage occurs in the normal drainage of CSF into the circulatory system or there is an over-production of CSF. Hydrocephalus is rather common, occurring in 1 in 500 births, and can be treated by creating an artificial shunt to direct the excess CSF out of the ventricles.
Late last week a reader here, who wishes to remain anonymous, emailed me the story of how he came to be diagnosed with hydrocephalus along with his MRI images! With his permission, I am posting them here to illustrate the dramatic difference between a normal MRI and an MRI during hydrocephalus.
Continued below the fold…
I had through most of my life though suffered from medically “unexplained” related conditions. Like as a child I landed in hospital for a few weeks with tick-bite fever. (Yes, I do live in Africa). Later, as a student, I was struck with an undiagnosed condition once more, for which the cure was a lumbar puncture. Personally, when your head feels like it is going to explode due to pressure, these are probably the most soothing things that one could possibly have performed on them. This was another week in hospital, in isolation, flat on my back, with a headache from hell. I think they drained everything out of my spinal column, as the only thing I could do was not move at all, else feel the wrath of the pain gods. So with hind site, and the fact that the hydrocephalus only became an issue latter in my life, it was probable that I’ve been suffering from it most of my life.
[One] interesting side effect of the hydrocephalus is the fact that I am now prone to seizures, and have to now take medication to control these. This only started after I had the first one on the the 25th of December 2002, which led to my diagnosis [of hydrocephalus]. Don’t get me started on the side effects of these types of medications.
Here is this patient’s MRI scanned right after the presentation of his first seizure in late 2002:
And, a bit later in October of 2003:
Compare these to the ventricle size of a person with normal CSF volume, and you’ll get a hint into how much hydrocephalus displaces the brain.