The importance of the cortical subarachnoid space in understanding hydrocephalus

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Object

In this paper the authors define the role of the cortical subarachnoid space (CSAS) in poorly understood forms of hydrocephalus to cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) dynamics to improve understanding of the importance of the CSAS and its role in selecting patients for endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV). The secondary purpose of this work was to define testable hypotheses to explain enigmatic disorders of CSF dynamics and to suggest how these concepts could be tested.

Methods

The magnitude of the contribution of the CSAS is explored using the solid geometry of concentric spheres. With this starting point, clinical conditions in which CSF dynamics are not easily understood are explored regarding the potential role of the CSAS. Overall, problems of CSF dynamics are easily understood. Insights may be gained when the results of a pathological process or its treatment vary from what has been expected.

Results

Acute changes in ventricular volume at the time that hydrocephalus develops, the failure of shunts, and the changes in ventricular volume with shunt repair may occur very rapidly. Changes in the volume of water in the brain, especially in the brain substance itself, are unlikely to occur at this rapid rate and may be interpreted as a simple redistribution of the CSF between the ventricle and CSAS with no initial change in the actual volume of brain parenchyma. Problems such as pseudotumor cerebri, shunt failure with nonresponsive ventricles, and negative-pressure hydrocephalus can be explained by assessing the ability of ventricular CSF to flow to the CSAS and the ability of this fluid to exit this compartment. Ventricular enlargement at the time of shunt failure implies a failure of flow between the ventricles and CSAS, implying that all patients who show this phenomenon are potential candidates for ETV.

Conclusions

The important role of the CSAS in the pathophysiology of various forms of hydrocephalus has been largely ignored. Attention to the dynamics of the CSF in this compartment will improve understanding of enigmatic conditions of hydrocephalus and improve selection criteria for treatment paradigms such as ETV. These concepts lead to clearly defined problems that may be solved by the creation of a central database to address these issues.

Abbreviations used in this paper: CSAS = cortical subarachnoid space; CSF = cerebrospinal fluid; ETV = endoscopic third ventriculostomy; EVD = external ventricular drain; ICP = intracranial pressure; LP = lumboperitoneal; NPH = normal-pressure hydrocephalus; NVH = normal-volume hydrocephalus; SSAS = spinal subarachnoid space; SVS = slit ventricle syndrome.
Article Information

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Harold L. Rekate, M.D., c/o Neuroscience Publications, Barrow Neurological Institute, 350 West Thomas Road, Phoenix, Arizona 85013. email: neuropub@chw.edu and tdnadkarni@hotmail.com.
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