The Problem: Every year, children in need go untreated.

Why?

There are fewer than 330 pediatric neurosurgeons for the majority of the world’s children, and they often work alone, without the support and collaboration that is vital to optimal outcomes.

RegionNumber of ChildrenAnnual Cases of HydrocephalusNumber of Pediatric Surgeons
United States72.8 million7,200200
Low-Middle Income Countries1.2 billion500,000330

For more detail, see “Pediatric neurosurgical workforce, access to care, equipment and training needs worldwide”

Hydrocephalus: the most common neurosurgical brain condition in children

child with hydrocephalus

Every year, nearly half a million babies will be affected by hydrocephalus, or “water on the brain,” most of them from lower-income countries that make up the majority world — countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Left untreated, half of them won’t live to see their second birthday and the other half will be severely disabled—cognitively impaired, spastic or blind. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, the most conservative estimates place the annual economic impact of untreated hydrocephalus at around 2 billion US dollars.

Left untreated, half of infants with hydrocephalus won’t live to see their second birthday, and the other half will be severely disabled

A high-maintenance treatment

infants with hydrocephalus

Until now, the primary treatment for hydrocephalus has been the placement of a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt. Studies have shown that, even in the most optimal environments, more than 40% of those shunts will fail in the first two years, as many as 80% by 10 years, and most patients will require multiple surgeries over time6. The complications of shunt malfunction and infection are usually manageable when access to advanced neurosurgical care is available on an urgent basis. But in many parts of the world, this is out of reach for most families, making shunt-dependence an ongoing life-threatening condition.

We’re out to change the end of this story.

a smiling child who has been treated for hydrocephalus

For more information, see:

  1. “Hydrocephalus in children”
  2. “Global hydrocephalus epidemiology and incidence: systematic review and meta-analysis”
  3. “Time trends and demographics of deaths from congenital hydrocephalus in children in the United States: National Center for Health Statistics data, 1979 to 1998”
  4. “The costs and benefits of neurosurgical intervention for infant hydrocephalus in sub-Saharan Africa”
  5. “Randomized trial of cerebrospinal fluid shunt valve design in pediatric hydrocephalus”