Hydrocephalus is variously associated to syndromic craniosynostosis (CS), while it is randomly encountered in monosutural CS. Pathogenesis is still debated and reliable criteria for the diagnosis of overt hydrocephalus are lacking. Additionally, optimal treatment is controversial since it should balance the need to relieve intracranial hypertension and the risk of recurrence favored by lowering intracranial pressure.
A thorough review of the literature has been performed. Accordingly, pathogenic theories, diagnostic issues, and treatment options on hydrocephalus presenting in the context of CS are discussed.
The association of hydrocephalus to simple CS is considered a fortuitous event. Its treatment is usually driven by the etiology and clinical relevance of hydrocephalus, favoring treatment before surgical correction to reduce CSF-related complications. On the other side, pathogenesis of hydrocephalus in the context of syndromic CS has been mainly related to factors that are secondary to the synostostic process, such as craniocerebral disproportion and venous hypertension. Hydrocephalus complicates 12–15% of syndromic CS, though its incidence is more relevant in FGFR2-related CS and raises up to 88% in Pfeiffer syndrome. Overt hydrocephalus should be properly differentiated by non-tense ventriculomegaly that is more frequent in Apert syndrome. Since intracranial hypertension is constant in syndromic CS even in the absence of active hydrocephalus, radiological monitoring of ventricular size along with intracranial pressure monitoring is essential. Active hydrocephalus occurs more frequently in infants, though stable ventriculomegaly may evolve into overt hydrocephalus after cranial expansion. If hydrocephalus is not clinically prominent, cranial expansion should be favored as first surgical step. Although posterior cranial expansion may address posterior cranial fossa constriction and stabilize ventricular dilation, effectiveness in long-term control of hydrocephalus is not clear. ETV is an effective treatment option, though success rate is affected by the presence of brain malformations and patient age. Extrathecal CSF shunting should be used as last resource due to the increased risk of complications in this context.
The pathogenesis of hydrocephalus complicating syndromic CS should be further investigated. Concomitantly, the definition of reliable diagnostic criteria is advocated in order to promptly and properly identify active hydrocephalus. Finally, treatment algorithm should refine the best timing and treatment options aiming to relieve intracranial hypertension on one side and reduce the risk of restenosis on the other side.
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Frassanito, P., Palombi, D. & Tamburrini, G. Craniosynostosis and hydrocephalus: relevance and treatment modalities. Childs Nerv Syst 37, 3465–3473 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00381-021-05158-z