In newborns and infants diagnosed with hydrocephalus, some of the common signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus that lead to testing and diagnosis might include:
- Unusual changes in the head
- An abnormally large head size
- A sudden increase in head size
- A bulging fontanelle (or soft spot)
- Excessive vomiting
- Excessive sleepiness
- Otherwise unexplained irritability
- Lack of interest in feeding
- Consistently downcast eyes
- Poor muscle tone
- Poor muscle strength
- Poor response to touch
When any or all of these symptoms of hydrocephalus are noted in your infant, a pediatrician or specialized medical professional will perform tests and examinations to reach a final and comprehensive diagnosis.
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Hydrocephalus is a buildup of fluid in the cavities deep inside the brain. This buildup of excess fluid increases the size of the brain’s ventricles which results in extreme pressure on the child’s brain. Cerebrospinal fluid normally flows through the ventricles to cushion and protect the brain and spine. Too much pressure and too much cerebrospinal fluid damage brain tissues and leads to a variety of impairments in the way the brain functions.
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Treatment Options for Hydrocephalus
When the symptoms of hydrocephalus lead to a final diagnosis, your child is likely to have an entire medical team to treat their hydrocephalus. Their medical and healthcare team may include a pediatrician, pediatric neurologist, occupational therapist, developmental therapist, and social worker. This healthcare team will primarily treat hydrocephalus with two surgical procedures—a shunt system and an endoscopic third ventriculostomy.
Shunt System Surgery
A shunt system surgical procedure is the most common treatment for hydrocephalus. It involves the surgical insertion of a specialized drainage system. This drainage system, commonly called a shunt, is a long, flexible tube containing a valve to keep the brain’s fluid flowing in the right direction and at the correct rate.
During the surgical procedure, one end of the tubing is strategically inserted into one of the brain’s ventricles and channeled underneath the skin into another part of the body. In many cases, the shunt leads to the abdomen or a select heart chamber where the excess cerebrospinal fluid is more easily absorbed by the body. Once inserted, a patient will require a shunt system and regular monitoring for the remainder of their lives.
Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy Surgery
During an endoscopic third ventriculostomy surgical procedure, the surgeon will insert a tiny video camera into the patient’s head to obtain a direct view of the inside of the brain. A surgeon will then make a hole in the bottom of one of the brain’s ventricles that allows the cerebrospinal fluid to flow out of the brain.
Like surgery to implant a shunt system, endoscopic third ventriculostomy surgery comes with its own risks. Complications of this intricate surgical procedure include bleeding and an increased risk of infection.
The Risk Factors for Hydrocephalus
In many adult-onset cases, the exact cause of hydrocephalus remains unknown. In newborns, hydrocephalus that is present at or shortly after birth might occur because of an irregular development of the central nervous system. This abnormality can lead to an obstructed flow of cerebrospinal fluid. It can also be caused by bleeding in the brain’s ventricles, often seen as a complication of premature birth.
Other risk factors for hydrocephalus include an infection of the uterus during pregnancy, an inflammation of the fetal brain tissues, lesions or tumors on the brain or spine, infections of the central nervous system, and a traumatic brain injury.
Hydrocephalus and Long-Term Complications
In limited cases, mild cases of hydrocephalus can have little to no lasting complications with prompt diagnosis and treatment. In other cases, hydrocephalus is a serious, lifelong brain injury that can impact your son or daughter in a variety of ways. Long-term complications of hydrocephalus can include significant intellectual impairment, developmental delays, and physical disabilities. The severity of your child’s complications will vary according to the cause, underlying medical conditions, and the specific complexities of your child’s initial symptoms.
The Prognosis for Infants with Hydrocephalus
A definitive prognosis for hydrocephalus patients can be difficult to ascertain. Surgery can provide some relief but may also require additional surgeries throughout the patient’s lifetime. Additionally, hydrocephalus can lead to other complications and conditions with a separate prognosis. Hydrocephalus can also cause cognitive and physical developmental delays.
Without treatment, the symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus can worsen over time. In rare cases where it is left untreated, progressive hydrocephalus could prove fatal. Early diagnosis and treatment of hydrocephalus offer the best opportunity for a favorable recovery.
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Birth Injury Lawsuits
When you notice the symptoms of hydrocephalus, prompt diagnosis and immediate medical follow-up is your first priority. Because of its serious nature, a thorough diagnosis followed by a complete prognosis is necessary. When your newborn is diagnosed with this serious medical condition, caused by a birth injury, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
Connect with the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800)-222-9529 find a lawyer in your state who can help you understand and explore the legal options you have for financial recovery.