Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Excess Fluid Around the Brain Anatomy

To better understand hydrocephalus, it helps to understand the anatomy of the brain.

Cerebrospinal fluid or CSF surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This clear fluid serves to cushion and protect the brain and spinal cord. CSF is produced in an area of the brain, flows around the brain through special channels, and then is absorbed in another location of the brain. Any blockage of the channels can result in fluid buildup, or hydrocephalus.

Brain Anatomy
The brain is well protected by:

  • The scalp
  • The skull
  • The dura
    • A tough 3-layer sheath that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
    • Layers include the dura mater (strongest layer), arachnoid mater (middle layer), and pia mater (closest to the brain)

The brain is a complicated structure containing many parts. These include:
  • The cerebrum:
    • Made up of two cerebral hemispheres that are connected in the middle
    • It is the largest part of the brain
    • Each area of the cerebrum performs an important function, such as language or movement
    • Higher thought (cognition) comes from the frontal cortex (front portion of the cerebrum)
    • Outside of the cerebrum are blood vessels
    • There are fluid-filled cavities and channels inside the brain
  • The cerebellum:
    • Located in the lower, back part of the skull
    • Controls movement and coordination
  • The brainstem and pituitary gland:
    • Responsible for involuntary functions such as breathing, body temperature, and blood pressure regulation
    • Pituitary gland is the "master gland" that controls other endocrine glands in the body, such as the thyroid and adrenal glands
  • The cranial nerves:
    • Twelve large nerves exit the bottom of the brain to supply function to the senses such as hearing, vision, and taste
  • The cerebral blood vessels:
    • A complicated system that supplies oxygenated blood and nutrients to the brain

The blood supply to the brain is divided into two main parts:
  • Anterior cerebral circulation:
    • The front of the brain is supplied by the paired carotid arteries in the neck.
  • Posterior cerebral circulation:
    • The back portion of the brain is supplied by the paired vertebral arteries in the spine.

Anatomy examples:
  • Carotid artery branches shown on arteriogram
  • Cerebral arteries viewed in cross-section through middle of brain
  • Cerebral arteries viewed from bottom of brain
  • Cerebral arteries on enhanced CT scan
  • Cerebral arteries on arteriogram

Last Updated: Dec 16, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Excess Fluid Around the Brain References
  1. Bret P, Chazal J. Chronic (normal pressure) hydrocephalus in childhood and adolescence. A review of 16 cases and reappraisal of the syndrome. Childs Nerv Syst. 1995 Dec;11(12):687-91. [8750950]
  2. Cowan JA, McGirt MJ, Woodworth G, Rigamonti D, Williams MA. The syndrome of hydrocephalus in young and middle-aged adults (SHYMA). Neurol Res. 2005 Jul;27(5):540-7. [15978182]
  3. Hebb AO, Cusimano MD. Idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus: a systematic review of diagnosis and outcome. Neurosurgery. 2001 Nov;49(5):1166-84. [11846911]
  4. Marmarou A, Young HF, Aygok GA, Sawauchi S, Tsuji O, Yamamoto T, Dunbar J. Diagnosis and management of idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus: a prospective study in 151 patients. J Neurosurg. 2005 Jun;102(6):987-97. [16028756]
  5. Measuring the health status of children with hydrocephalus by using a new outcome measure. J Neurosurg. 2004 Nov;101(2 Suppl):141-6. [15835100]
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