What is Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus is one of the most common congenital (present at birth) problems in children and the most common clinical problem pediatric neurosurgeons face. It happens to one child per 1,000 live births and is a major social, medical and economic problem. Hydrocephalus is almost always a life-long condition.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is important to the human body because it bathes and cushions the brain and quickly transfers signals between its different areas. A child with hydrocephalus,
however, has too much CSF inside the ventricles of the brain.
The treatment for hydrocephalus—the shunt—has saved many lives,
but we still don’t have a cure and shunting is not a perfect treatment.
Up to 15 percent of children with shunts have painful problems during their lifetime—problems like infections or shunts that don’t work properly. This often means operating many times on a child to replace the shunt. Dr. Avellino and his colleagues
at Seattle Children's would like to save children from this pain.
At Children’s, we’re asking, “How can we treat patients in a less invasive manner and possibly cure hydrocephalus?”
- 1 million people have hydrocephalus in the US.
- There are 180 different causes.
- There is no cure and very little research. The NIH spends 60 cents per person with hydrocephalus per year
compared to $300 per person per year with Juvenile Diabetes though the prevalence of
the disease is the same.
- The standard treatment, a shunt, was developed in 1952 and has a 50% failure rate after just two years which is the reason so many have to have multiple brain surgeries just to stay alive.
- 60% of children with hydrocephalus are not independent as adults and require assistance.
- 50% of children with hydrocephalus score 80 or below on standardized intelligence tests.
- It costs the United States $1 billion per year in health care costs to treat hydrocephalus.