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Hydrocephalus in children: Physiology, pathogenesis, and etiology

Abilash Haridas, MD
Tadanori Tomita, MD
Section Editor
Marc C Patterson, MD, FRACP
Deputy Editor
Carrie Armsby, MD, MPH


Hydrocephalus is a disorder in which an excessive amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) accumulates within the cerebral ventricles and/or subarachnoid spaces, resulting in ventricular dilation and increased intracranial pressure (ICP) [1,2].

The physiology, pathogenesis, and etiology of hydrocephalus will be reviewed here. The clinical features, diagnosis, management, and prognosis of hydrocephalus are discussed separately. (See "Hydrocephalus in children: Clinical features and diagnosis" and "Hydrocephalus in children: Management and prognosis".)

Normal pressure hydrocephalus, a condition seen predominantly in adults in which the cerebral ventricles are pathologically enlarged, but the ICP is not elevated, is also discussed separately. (See "Normal pressure hydrocephalus".)


The following terms are used this topic:

Obstructive hydrocephalus – Obstructive hydrocephalus (also called noncommunicating hydrocephalus) refers to excess accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) due to structural blockage of CSF flow within the ventricular system. This is the most common form of hydrocephalus in children and is almost always associated with increased intracranial pressure (ICP). (See 'Obstruction' below.)

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 08, 2018.
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