Pseudotumor cerebri literally means "false brain tumor." It is likely due to high pressure within the skull caused by the buildup or poor absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The disorder is most common in women between the ages of 20 and 50. Symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri, which include headache, nausea, vomiting, visual loss, and pulsating sounds within the head, closely mimic symptoms of large brain tumors.
Obesity, other treatable diseases, and some medications can cause raised intracranial pressure and symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri. A thorough medical history and physical examination is needed to evaluate these factors. If a diagnosis of pseudotumor cerebri is confirmed, close, repeated ophthalmologic exams are required to monitor any changes in vision. Drugs may be used to reduce fluid buildup and to relieve pressure. Weight loss through dieting or weight loss surgery and cessation of certain drugs (including oral contraceptives, tetracycline, and a variety of steroids) may lead to improvement. Surgery may be needed to remove pressure on the optic nerve. Therapeutic shunting, which involves surgically inserting a tube to drain CSF, may be needed to remove excess CSF and relieve CSF pressure.
The disorder may cause progressive, permanent visual loss in some patients. In some cases, pseudotumor cerebri recurs.
Hydrocephalus, a condition characterized by excess buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), is often treated with the surgical placement of a shunt system. This system diverts the flow of CSF from a site within the central nervous system to another area of the body where it can be absorbed as part of the circulatory process.
To place a shunt, the surgeon creates a small hole in the skull. A catheter is inserted into the hole and carefully guided into a ventricle in the brain. A second catheter is inserted under the scalp and pushed downward, just under the skin, through the neck and chest. The end of this catheter may be inserted into the abdomen, or it may be inserted into the heart.
The surgeon connects both catheters to a valve placed beneath the scalp. This valve will regulate the amount of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, allowing excess fluid to drain out of the brain and down into the abdominal cavity (or heart) to be absorbed and eliminated from the body.
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