The prognosis for patients diagnosed with hydrocephalus is difficult to predict, although there is some correlation between the specific cause of the hydrocephalus and the patient's outcome. Prognosis is further complicated by the presence of associated disorders, the timeliness of diagnosis and the success of treatment. The degree to which decompression (relief of CSF pressure or build-up) following shunt surgery can minimize or reverse damage to the brain, is not well understood.
Prognosis of Progressive Hydrocephalus
Affected individuals and their families should be aware that hydrocephalus poses risks to both cognitive and physical development. However, many children diagnosed with the disorder benefit from rehabilitation therapies and educational interventions and go on to lead normal lives with few limitations. Treatment by an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals, rehabilitation specialists, and educational experts is critical to a positive outcome. Left untreated, progressive hydrocephalus is, with rare exceptions, fatal.
Prognosis of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
The symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus usually get worse over time if the condition is not treated, although some people may experience temporary improvements. While the success of treatment with shunts varies from person to person, some people recover almost completely after treatment and have a good quality of life. Early diagnosis and treatment improves the chance of a good recovery.
* Information provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS: https://www.ninds.nih.gov).
Depending on patients age and symptoms, there are different options to diagnose hydrocephalus. A diagnosis normally always consists of imaging techniques like ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance tomography (MRT). With the help of the imaging techniques shape and size of the ventricles become visible.
In the event of a non-communicating hydrocephalus, an endoscopic procedure (endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV)) often is the treatment of choice. Through a small opening in the head, the surgeon is using an endoscope to either remove the blockage or to open the ventricles allowing the CSF to circulate again.
The most common procedure is to implant a shunt system allowing the excessive CSF to flow through a thin silicone tube from the brain into another part of the body, usually the abdomen. From here the fluid is absorbed into the blood stream. The shunt consists of a catheter and a valve to control the flow of CSF and to ensure a normal brain pressure.
Shunt surgery is carried out by an experienced neurosurgeon. Patients will be given a general anaesthetic before the operation, which usually takes less than an hour.
A high quality hydrocephalus shunt is designed to stay implanted for a lifetime. Nevertheless it might be necessary to see the surgeon for regular check-ups to adapt the valve pressure. Furthermore frequent consultations gives the chance to detect potential complications. Shunt surgery, as with every surgery, contains the risk of complications, so if new symptoms occur you should visit your physician.