What are causes of hydrocephalus in adults?

Updated: Jun 04, 2018
  • Author: Stephen L Nelson, Jr, MD, PhD, FAACPDM, FAAN, FAAP; Chief Editor: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA  more...
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Causes of hydrocephalus in adults include:

  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) causes one third of these cases by blocking the arachnoid villi and limiting resorption of CSF. However, communication between ventricles and subarachnoid space is preserved. [13]

  • Idiopathic hydrocephalus represents one third of cases of adult hydrocephalus.

  • Head injury, through the same mechanism as SAH, can result in hydrocephalus.

  • Tumors can cause blockage anywhere along the CSF pathways. The most frequent tumors associated with hydrocephalus are ependymoma, subependymal giant cell astrocytoma, choroid plexus papilloma, craniopharyngioma, pituitary adenoma, hypothalamic or optic nerve glioma, hamartoma, and metastatic tumors.

  • Prior posterior fossa surgery may cause hydrocephalus by blocking normal pathways of CSF flow.

  • Congenital aqueductal stenosis causes hydrocephalus but may not be symptomatic until adulthood. Special care should be taken when attributing new neurological deficits to congenital hydrocephalus, as its treatment by shunting may not correct these deficits.

  • Meningitis, especially bacterial, may cause hydrocephalus in adults.

  • All causes of hydrocephalus described in infants and children are present in adults who have had congenital or childhood-acquired hydrocephalus.

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