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Adult Hydrocephalus Program

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear, colorless liquid that bathes the brain and spinal cord, cushions the brain, and acts as a shock absorber for the central nervous system. It also circulates substances filtered from the blood, and removes waste products from the brain.

When the normal flow of CSF is disrupted, it can cause a variety of symptoms. These types of disorders require highly specialized expertise to diagnose and treat. Fortunately, UMass Memorial’s Adult Hydrocephalus program has a multidisciplinary team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, neuroradiologists and other professionals with this advanced expertise.

CSF Flow Disorders We Treat

Because of our experience in diagnosing and treating CSF flow disorders, we see a wide range of these conditions, including many forms of hydrocephalus (an abnormal buildup of CSF in the ventricles of the brain): 

  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), one of the most common conditions we see, usually begins after age 60 and is characterized by gait difficulty, incontinence and dementia. NPH is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or simply “old age.”
  • Communicating hydrocephalus
  • Congenital (present from birth) hydrocephalus
  • Obstructive hydrocephalus
  • CSF leak, when a hole or tear in the dura (the tough outermost membrane enveloping the brain and spinal cord) allows CSF to leak out
  • Pseudotumor cerebri/idiopathic intracranial hypertension, a condition in which pressure inside the skull increases
  • Syringomyelia, when a cyst forms in the spinal cord
  • Chiari I malformation, in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal

Adult Hydrocephalus Services We Offer

The UMass Memorial Adult Hydrocephalus Program provides comprehensive diagnosis and treatment that is carefully tailored to the individual patient. Treatment of CSF flow disorders, particularly hydrocephalus, depends on the severity of the condition. Surgical treatment generally involves inserting a tube (shunt) into a ventricle to drain excess fluid and reduce pressure on the brain.

In addition to expert clinical care, our doctors and scientists are conducting groundbreaking National Institutes of Health-funded research aimed at understanding the causes of and developing new treatments for normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Click here to learn more about Neurosurgery services at Umass Memorial Medical Center.


To schedule an appointment or contribute to our research, please call 508-334-0605.