Thursday, April 5, 2012

history of hydrocephalus treatment and a hope for the future

I've tried to make it a point to write at least once a week,so I apologize for not writing in during the last couple weeks.

Although there really hasn't been much improvement in treatment in the last sixty years for hydrocephalus there has been some.Other than in the eighties there has been some development in shunts since when they first came out with them.The main reason that it took until then is because they couldn't determine what was causing it exactly because they didn't have the technology  to find out.Then they didn't have the technology to find out someone has hydrocephalus before they were born until decades later.The first treatment they tried for hydrocephalus was ventricular punctures,and it didn't work because he thought that it had to do with the outside of the brain rather than inside it.In ancient greece they attempted to treat hydrocephalus by wrapping bark around the person's head and in trephined holes.Several other treatments were tried to during the last couple centuries before shunt technology.Many were not successful due to lack of knowledge on what hydrocephalus,but some were close to knowing what the cause and wasn't successful for other reasons.One interesting treatment had to do with leeches,because a 19th century doctor thought that hydrocephalus was a inflammatory disease/condition.

The main two people who invented the first and still current shunt valve were actually not doctors.One was a toolmaker and the other is a famous children's author.They both were fathers of a son who developed hydrocephalus in childhood,and they both had the determination and the knowledge to make something that would not only save their sons lives.The inventor of the shunt valve is John Holter.His son Charles was born with severe spina bifida and after meningitis he developed hydrocephalus.This was 1950 and at the time the hospital they went to had developed a shunt but they didn't have a valve for it.After a failed attempt which resulted in the death of a young boy,he made the first shunt.Although it didn't save his son the shunt is still in use today.His model is the "Spitz-Holter" shunt.

With the first development in shunt technology was partially made by a engineer and a neurosurgeon the person who decided to make it and also had a huge part in developing the shunt itself was Roald Dahl.If you don't know who he is,he's a children author who wrote books who would later be turned into popular movies like Charlie and the chocolate factory.Although shunt problems are common and the need for revisions is far more likely than they should be,it use to be alot worse.After Dahl's son's carriage was hit by a taxi he developed hydrocephalus.Back before he created his valve shunts would jam more often and be more likely to cause brain damage and blindness than it does now.He ended up inventing the valve system that's still in use and at least at the time metal discs were invloved.His valve is no longer in use and his son didn't need a shunt anymore by the time he finished it,but it did save or at least made life easier for several thousand children.Kind of off subject but Roal Dahl was one of my favorite authors as a kid,and still is.I think it's pretty cool that he has a part in why I was alive and well at that point in the first place.

There was developments for shunt technology in the decades to follow nothing really worth mentioning.In 1997/1998 the programmable shunt was developed and released.The purpose of it is so that not every problem doesn't have to involve surgery and a new shunt.Instead the person's neurosurgeon can change the setting.The prolem is that even though that it makes that part of a person's life the programmable is likely to cause other problems,and just isn't worth it.Personally because of not having any revisions yet and having a shunt about about a decade older than the first programmables I can't talk about it from personal experience.

The newest known developed is endoscopic third ventriculostomy.It involves making a small hole in the third ventricle of the brain so having a shunt isn't needed.Although it was used pre-shunt for several decades and it was successful and replaced by shunts.It's more effective now but it still fails,and only a small amount of people are able to have it done.I already know without needing to ask a neurosurgeon that I'm not one of them.

There has been small improvements in recent years but nothing that's really well known or at least known to be effective.There is hope though,before 30 years there was no foundations for hydrocephalus so other than what was funded by the government which has never been much.Now more than ever with foundations,and social media with have more of a chance to raise money or just awareness.There working on new developments rather or not we hear about it alot.The way we're going there's hope for a cure,thanks for reading :)


  1. Thanks,I've had Hydrocephalus since birth. thanks for all you do and to all those that are getting the word out about Hydrocephalus. I always wondered why somethings happen and i didn't understand them but now im starting to learn why,,it means so much