The relationship of intracranial venous pressure to hydrocephalus

Harold D. Portnoy, Craig Branch, Manuel E. Castro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Little is known about intracranial venous pressure in hydrocephalus. Recently, we reported that naturally occurring hydrocephalus in Beagle dogs was associated with an elevation in cortical venous pressure. We proposed that the normal pathway for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) absorption includes transcapillary or transvenular absorption of CSF from the interstitial space and that the increase in cortical venous pressure is an initial event resulting in decreased absorption and subsequent hydrocephalus. Further analysis, however, suggests that increased cortical venous pressure reflects the effect of the failure of transvillus absorption with increase in CSF pressure on the venous pressure gradient between ventricle and cortex. Normally, the cortical venous pressure is maintained above CSF pressure by the Starling resistor effect of the lateral lacunae. A similar mechanism is absent in the deep venous system, and thus the pressure in the deep veins is similar to that in the dural sinuses. Decreased CSF absorption causes an increase in CSF pressure followed by an increase in cortical venous pressure without a similar increase in periventricular venous pressure. The periventricular CSF to venous (transparenchymal) pressure (TPP) gradient increases. In contrast, cortical vein pressure remains greater than CSF pressure (negative TPP). The elevated periventricular TPP gradient causes ventricular dilatation and decreased periventricular cerebral blood flow (CBF), a condition that persists even if the CSF pressure returns to normal, particularly if tissue elastance is lessened by tissue damage. If deep CBF is to be maintained, periventricular venous pressure must increase. Since the veins are in a continuum, cortical venous pressure will further increase above the CSF pressure. Understanding these principles related to intracranial venous pressure helps in the selection of shunt characteristics that best match the pathologic condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-35
Number of pages7
JournalChild's Nervous System
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortical venous pressure
  • Dural sinus pressure
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Periventricular hypodensity
  • Transmantle pressure
  • Transparenchymal pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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