Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Hydrocephalus With Reader Case Study

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:

i-ff9ab74c52624ea0ba326bc862e06507-hydro 1.jpg

And, a bit later in October of 2003:

i-c186843f3922e9f7979e7160d3763231-hydro 2.jpg

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.

i-a084d49408b48429d68cfe8a7ddea4ae-norm mri.jpg

Comments

  1. #1 teacherninja
    January 15, 2008

    That is so cool. Thanks for sharing.

  2. #2 UnionCarbide
    January 15, 2008

    Gah. That gives me a headache just looking at it.

  3. #3 Drugmonkey
    January 15, 2008

    remember when those nutjob Hollywood couples broke new ground in Silly with home ultrasound for on-demand baby updates? can home MRI for the UltraHeeled be far behind?

  4. #4 Gary Greenberg
    January 16, 2008

    Please see the review of the work of John Lorber in, Lewin, R. (1980). Is your brain really necessary? Science, 210, 1232-1234. It discusses several college aged adults with huge ventricles and virtually no cerebral tissue.

  5. #5 Tlazolteotl
    January 28, 2008

    I used to work at a pediatric hospital doing filing for radiology. So I can honestly say, I’ve seen worse!

    Shunts are strange beasts. The ones they used then (about 20 years ago, maybe the technology has improved) were a rubber tube, with one end planted into the ventricle through a hole in the skull, the distal end running under the skin and under the collarbone into the chest to drain. Of course, the body often tried to isolate the foreign object by growing a cyst around either end of the tubing. There used to be a little rubber blister near the proximal end, implanted behind the patient’s ear. So when the patient felt some pressure, the doc would pump this to dislodge any growth around the ends to clear the tubing. Sometimes this worked, but if the patient’s symptoms got worse, they could do a radioisotope study to see if the tube was draining at all. If it was plugged, the kid had to into surgery to have at least part of the tubing replaced.

  6. #6 Peter
    February 11, 2009

    HELP US SPREAD THE WORD: http://WWW.TEAMHYDRO.ORG

    On August 15th I will join TEAM HYDRO in the annual Sharkfest swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco to raise awareness and funds for the non-profit Hydrocephalus Association.

    There is no cure for hydrocephalus, a life-threatening condition affecting the brain, which afflicts 1 million Americans. TEAM HYDRO’s ranks have grown to nearly 2 dozen swimmers from ages 12 to 60! Together we hope to raise $20,000 for hydrocephalus research. We know times are tough. Even if all you can do is learn about hydrocephalus, WE THANK YOU for your support!

    We are inspired by my sister, Kate, who lives with hydrocephalus and the chronic pain that comes with it. In the past few years she has undergone over 50 brain surgeries in attempts to treat her condition. Won’t you join us in the fight against hydrocephalus?

    Please visit http://www.teamhydro.org to learn more, to watch our 1min video, and to donate.
    Email: info@teamhydro.org

    TEAM HYDRO: Taking a bite out of hydrocephalus, one stroke at a time!!

    Sincerely,

    Peter

    HELP US SPREAD THE WORD

  7. #7 unshuntedJamie
    November 5, 2010

    I have HAD no symptoms till I hit 40.
    NOW diagnosed Hydro since birth.
    I am a pawn and a guinea pig

  8. #8 christopher
    November 5, 2010

    I still have my CT scans from 12 years ago…showing the enlarging of my ventricles and the Disconnection of one of my shunts.

  9. #9 Walter LIttle, Jr.
    November 22, 2010

    Good afternoon Shelley and congrats on the blog! I am a 47 year-old congenital hydrcephalus that was diagnosed shortly after I was born and became progressively worse. I am un-shunted and my ventricles look like a butterfly on steroids when viewed on an MRI. I live a normal life in that I’m married, semi-retired after 25+ years in the fire service, and just generally enjoy life.

    This is my story that I published on Helium.com . . .

    http://www.helium.com/items/726956-testimonies-surviving-hydrocephalus

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