, Volume 21, Issue 10, pp 902-912
Date: 27 Apr 2005

Hydrocephalus in craniosynostosis: a review

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Ventricular dilatation in the presence of primary craniosynostosis is a unique condition with respect to pathogenesis, clinical significance, and morphological appearance. It is rarely observed in nonsyndromic craniosynostosis, and in these cases usually attributable to coincidental disorders. Conversely, it is a common feature of syndromic craniosynostosis, affecting at least 40% of patients with Crouzon’s, Pfeiffer’s or the Apert syndrome. Shunt-dependent hydrocephalus is predominantly associated with Crouzon or Pfeiffer syndrome while in the Apert syndrome the usual finding is nonprogressive ventriculomegaly which, however, may also occur in some cases of Crouzon syndrome.


The pathogenesis of progressive hydrocephalus remains somewhat obscure, a hypoplastic posterior fossa and a venous outlet occlusion at the skull base being the main causative factors discussed in literature. Ventriculomegaly may reflect primary brain maldevelopment or in some cases even a compensated state of increased cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) outflow resistance.

Clinical evaluation

Clinical evaluation is mainly aimed at identifying progressive hydrocephalus, but diagnosis is hampered by the fact that classical clinical signs may be absent, and that ventricular dilatation will often become evident only after decompressive cranial surgery. Moreover, mild ventriculomegaly may in some cases coexist with intracranial hypertension from craniostenosis. Therefore, careful monitoring of intracranial pressure and ventricular size in the pre- and postoperative period is a diagnostic mainstay.


In true hydrocephalus ventriculo-peritoneal shunting is currently the single promising mode of treatment.