Congenital Hydrocephalus
Signs and Symptoms

The most common cause of congenital hydrocephalus is obstruction of the cerebral aqueduct — the long, narrow passageway between the third and fourth ventricle or cavity of the brain. This condition may result from a blockage, infection, hemorrhage, tumor or arachnoid cyst.

Other medical problems associated with congenital hydrocephalus may include:

  • Chiari malformations, an abnormality at the base of brain where the spinal column joins the skull
  • Craniosynostosis, when the bones in the skull fuse together before the brain has stopped growing
  • Dandy-Walker syndrome, when the fourth ventricle is enlarged because of partial or complete closure of its outlets
  • Hydranencephaly, a rare condition in which the brain's cerebral hemispheres are absent and replaced by sacs filled with cerebrospinal fluid
  • Neural tube defects or spina bifida, when the spinal cord is exposed at birth and is often lacking cerebrospinal fluid
  • Schizencephaly, an extremely rare disorder characterized by abnormal slits, or clefts, in the brain's cerebral hemispheres
  • Vein of Galen malformations, abnormal connections between arteries and the deep draining veins of the brain that develop before birth

Symptoms in infants may include:

  • Downward deviation of the eyes, called "sunsetting"
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Sleepiness
  • Very large head or a head that's growing very quickly in relation to the rest of the body
  • Vomiting

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Pediatric Brain Center

Neurosurgery Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7500
Fax: (415) 353-2889
Appointment information

Child and Adolescent Neurology Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7596
Fax: (415) 353-2400
Appointment information

Neuro-Intensive Care Nursery (NICN)
1975 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-1565
Fax: (415) 353-1202