Hydrocephalus is a condition commonly referred to as "water on the brain." The term describes a situation where the ventricles (normal fluid-filled spaces deep in the brain) contain too much fluid or in which the fluid is under excessively high pressure. Hydrocephalus often affects children, and can be caused by inborn conditions, in which a baby's brain develops abnormally and the proper pathways through which the fluid drains out of the brain are malformed, causing fluid buildup. It can also be caused by brain tumors, intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) and other acquired problems.

Hydrocephalus is often treated using a neurosurgical procedure called a ventriculo-peritoneal (VP) shunt, which works like a pipe with an adjustable faucet. A neurosurgeon inserts a catheter directly into brain, through a specially drilled hole, so that the tip ends up inside the enlarged ventricle.

The tube is connected to a valve which controls the flow of fluid out of the brain. The tubing and valve are all located underneath the skin. A magnetic device can be placed over the top of the valve, outside the skin, to permit the surgical staff to adjust the pressure in the valve up or down, like opening or closing a faucet, to drain more or less fluid depending on the patient's needs.

Dr. James Holsapple specializes in treating hydrocephalus.

Departments and Programs Who Treat This Condition



The Department of Neurosurgery at Boston Medical Center is a full- service clinical and academic program that provides advanced treatment for patients with a broad spectrum of dis…