A buildup of the fluid surrounding and cushioning the brain is what can cause hydrocephalus. This fluid is called the cerebrospinal fluid. In healthy newborns and adults, it moves through the brain and the spinal cord and is normally soaked into the bloodstream. The level of cerebrospinal fluid rises in the body when its flow is blocked, it is not absorbed into the blood, or excessive pressure is put on the brain. This pressure can lead to the brain being pushed against the skull which damages brain tissue.
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Overview of Hydrocephalus
There are three common types of hydrocephalus. Normal-pressure hydrocephalus, which is often seen in older adults, obstructive hydrocephalus, and congenital hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is often seen in babies who have myelomeningocele, a birth defect resulting from the spinal column not closing properly. It can also be caused by:
- Injury or trauma
- Infections during pregnancy
- Subarachnoid hemorrhaging
- Injuries before, during, and after childbirth
- Brain and spinal tumors of the central nervous system
- Bleeding in the brain during or immediately after premature delivery
Commonly known as water on the brain, hydrocephalus is a serious medical condition that can lead to lifelong complications for your son or daughter. Prompt medical attention and care may increase the chances of a more favorable diagnosis for your child.
Cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord and acts as a natural protectant. Cerebrospinal fluid is produced by the tissues that line the ventricles of the brain and flow through its interconnecting channels. It is normally absorbed by the blood vessels near the base of the brain.
A proper balance of cerebrospinal fluid helps the brain remain buoyant, float properly in the skull, prevent injuries to the brain, and remove waste products from the brain’s metabolism. Cerebrospinal fluid helps the body maintain consistent pressure in the brain which and offsets changes in blood pressure.
Myelomeningocele is a birth defect that occurs when the backbone and spinal canal fail to close normally prior to birth. A type of spina bifida is caused when the two sides of the spine do not join to cover the spinal cord and nerves. This incomplete formation of the spinal canal can cause the spinal cord to protrude from the child’s back.
A subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when bleeding happens in the space between the brain and surrounding membranes. It is sometimes associated with nausea, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. Subarachnoid hemorrhaging typically results from an aneurysm, a trauma to the brain, or a tangle of blood vessels in the brain. Subarachnoid hemorrhaging is a serious medical condition that could prove fatal if left untreated.
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How Hydrocephalus Is Diagnosed
Hydrocephalus is readily apparent with a visual exam. Hydrocephalus diagnosis is sought when a newborn or infant appears to have a bulging fontanelle, and a larger than usual head size. If your doctor notices that your baby is irritable, sleeps or vomits excessively, has downcast eyes, or has otherwise unexplained seizures, he may perform the following tests to make a comprehensive diagnosis.
Following a thorough physical and neurological examination, your baby’s doctors and specialists may request imaging tests to obtain a clear, detailed picture of your baby’s brain. Imaging test may include:
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the brain. It is a simple, low-risk, painless procedure performed on the fontanelle at the top of your baby’s head. An ultrasound performed during pregnancy might also detect hydrocephalus prior to your baby’s birth.
- MRI: A magnetic resonance imaging examination uses a combination of radio waves and a magnetic field to create images of your baby’s brain. These images are extremely detailed, three-dimensional, cross-sectioned images of the brain. Although an MRI is painless, it can also be noisy and requires your baby to lay perfectly still.
- CT Scan: A computerized tomography image is a highly specialized type of X-ray that produces cross-sectioned views of the brain. A CT scan is simple, fast, and painless, but requires immobilization and might also require mild sedation.
The fontanelle, commonly called the soft spot, is the section of your infant’s head where the bony plates of the skull have not completely come together. The fontanelle is normal in infants and can be seen and felt on the top and back of the baby’s head. An unusually large fontanelle is typically indicative of a serious medical condition.
Birth Injury Lawsuits
If your baby has been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, the first thing you want to do is ensure they get the best medical care that leads to a favorable prognosis. Because hydrocephalus is often caused by a birth injury, you should also speak with an attorney who knows what can cause hydrocephalus and can help you understand your options for financial compensation. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800)-222-9529 to connect with a lawyer in your state who can help build a successful birth injury case.