Hydrocephalus occurs when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. While this fluid is a normal and necessary part of the brain’s functioning, having too much can cause harm. If left untreated, brain damage and even death can occur.
If your child has hydrocephalus because of a birth injury, or if the hospital where your child as born failed to diagnose congenital hydrocephalus, you may have a valid medical malpractice case. Reach out to the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today by calling 1-800-222-9529. You can connect with a lawyer in your state who can help.
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Hydrocephalus Lawsuits and Injury Cases
There are generally two ways a hydrocephalus diagnosis can support a medical malpractice claim:
- The care provider delivering the baby caused a head injury or other traumatic brain injury.
- The doctor delayed the diagnosis of hydrocephalus, and the child suffered brain damage.
In either case, you may be able to take legal action against the doctor or hospital and recover damages. These damages could include medical bills, out-of-pocket costs, therapy and rehabilitation, pain and suffering, and more.
When a hydrocephalus birth injury attorney from your state reviews your case, they can help you understand how long you have to take legal action and what you must prove to get compensation.
Doctors have a responsibility to follow certain protocols and treat all patients with an acceptable standard of care. Your attorney can build a case showing the doctor failed to provide that standard of care, such as ordering a c-section before a newborn suffered injuries in a difficult birth.
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There are two types of hydrocephalus:
- Communicating, non-obstructive hydrocephalus
- Non-communicating, obstructive hydrocephalus
Each of the two types of hydrocephalus can be either congenital or acquired. Communicating hydrocephalus has two sub-types: normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) and hydrocephalus ex-vacuo. Hydrocephalus in infants is typically non-communicating. Birth injuries may cause non-communicating, acquired hydrocephalus.
Congenital or acquired hydrocephalus diagnosed in an infant can occur because of a number of causes. These include:
- Abnormal development of the central nervous system
- Bleeding within the ventricles, more common in premature infants
- Infection in the uterus, often rubella or syphilis
- Tumors in the brain or spinal cord
- Central nervous system infections, including bacterial meningitis or mumps
- Bleeding in the brain from a stroke
- Traumatic brain injury during birth or shortly after
In infants, hydrocephalus signs and symptoms can be more difficult to distinguish than in children and adults. Often the first signs of excess fluid on the brain include:
- An unusually large head
- Rapid changes in the size or shape of the head
- A bulging of the infant’s soft spot
Other symptoms include:
- Poor feeding
- Eyes fixed downward, called sunsetting
- Deficits in muscle tone and strength
- Poor growth
- Little reaction to touch
- Increased sleepiness
Hydrocephalus Diagnosis and Treatment
Getting an early and accurate diagnosis of hydrocephalus is important in preventing serious injury to the brain. If your doctor believes your infant may have hydrocephalus, they will likely order several brain imaging tests. This may include an ultrasound, MRI, and CT scan. The sooner the doctor can make a diagnosis, the sooner they can lower the pressure inside your child’s head.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common way doctors treat infants with hydrocephalus is to insert a shunt. A shunt is a long tube that allows excess fluid to drain into another part of the body. A surgeon will place this tube in one of the ventricles of the brain and run it under the skin to the abdomen or another location where it can drain safely.
Shunts usually remain in place for life, and your child will need to see their doctor regularly to ensure it is working properly.
If the doctor does not believe a shunt is the right option for your child, there are other effective treatments for hydrocephalus they may recommend.
Hydrocephalus Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my baby has hydrocephalus?
Most parents notice the physical appearance or physical changes in their child caused by hydrocephalus. This includes:
- An unusually large head
- Rapid growth or changes in the shape of the head
- A bulging fontanel (soft spot)
If you notice any of these changes in physical appearance, or any other symptoms of hydrocephalus in your newborn, bring your concerns to the attention of your doctor immediately. They should order imaging scans to determine if your child has hydrocephalus.
Can hydrocephalus be fatal?
Hydrocephalus is a treatable condition, but it can be deadly if left untreated. Depending on how much congenital hydrocephalus progresses before diagnosis, your child may have intellectual, developmental, and physical special needs. When hydrocephalus is acquired following a birth injury, a quick diagnosis can mean the child has few, if any, lasting effects.
Who is liable for hydrocephalus?
If a doctor or other medical care provider caused your infant to suffer a head injury during birth or failed to diagnose and treat congenital hydrocephalus, you may be able to hold them liable by filing a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit.
What is the statute of limitations for hydrocephalus?
Each state has its own laws regarding how long you can wait to take legal action against the liable doctor or hospital in your case. Since the victim, your infant, was a minor when the injury occurred, some states toll the statute of limitations. This means they put it on hold for a set time to allow you to understand the lasting effects of their injuries better.
Be aware, though, that some states also have a statute of repose. This is an absolute deadline on when you can file a lawsuit, regardless of the age of the victim. When you discuss your case with an attorney from your state, the attorney can help you understand the deadlines that apply in your case.
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Hydrocephalus Glossary Terms
- What is aqueductal stenosis? Aqueductal stenosis is a narrowing of the aqueduct of sylvius, which can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. It is the most common cause of congenital hydrocephalus.
- What is subarachnoid hemorrhage? A subarachnoid hemorrhage is a bleed that goes into the space surrounding the brain. Hydrocephalus is a common complication.
- What is encephalocele? Encephalocele is a protrusion of the brain through an opening in the skull. Hydrocephalus is a common sign of encephalocele.
Talk to a Hydrocephalus Birth Injury Attorney in Your State Today
If your infant has hydrocephalus following a preventable birth injury, call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group now at 1-800-222-9529. You can connect with an attorney who will review your case and explain your options today.