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.
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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.
What Can Cause Hydrocephalus?
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.
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.
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)-278-9191 to connect with a lawyer in your state who can help build a successful birth injury case.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hydrocephalus?
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.
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.
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.
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)-278-9191 find a lawyer in your state who can help you understand and explore the legal options you have for financial recovery.
What Is The Prognosis For Newborns With Hydrocephalus?
Most newborns with hydrocephalus require prompt diagnosis and treatment but can thrive following placement of a shunt or other treatment. If their only medical concern is hydrocephalus, they will likely live a normal lifespan and have a normal quality of life. They will have a few limitations but will require ongoing monitoring. So, the prognosis for newborns with hydrocephalus is generally positive.
The overall prognosis depends heavily on any other congenital abnormalities or birth injuries they suffered. For example, hydrocephalus is common with spina bifida, which often leaves children with physical and intellectual disabilities.
STATISTICS SHOW MOST BABIES WITH HYDROCEPHALUS DO WELL AFTER RELEASE FROM THE HOSPITAL
The effects of hydrocephalus vary from child to child. In general, with early detection and treatment, most babies do very well. It is important, though, to ensure the child receives ongoing monitoring and care.
Around half of all children born with hydrocephalus have normal intelligence and most live a normal lifespan. The most common complications include seizures in about ten percent of children born with hydrocephalus.
The mortality rate for infants born with hydrocephalus overall is about five percent, and many of these children may have additional medical conditions or injuries that caused their hydrocephalus.
HYDROCEPHALUS AND BRAIN DAMAGE
The damage, if any, the brain sustained because of the build-up of pressure associated with hydrocephalus will play a role in the child’s life. How large this role is, however, depends on many factors. Some children have normal intelligence, while others require special education services.
Depending on the area of the brain affected and the severity of the damage, some children may experience only behavioral difficulties or relatively minor developmental delays. Others may face years of speech, occupational, and physical therapy to navigate self-care and independent living tasks.
NEWBORNS WITH HYDROCEPHALUS REQUIRE ONGOING MONITORING
The most common treatment for hydrocephalus in newborns is shunt placement. This procedure requires the surgeon to insert a long, flexible tube with a one-way valve into the baby’s brain and under the skin to the abdomen. This allows the excess cerebrospinal fluid to drain and be reabsorbed by the body.
This is a very common procedure, and most babies do well. However, shunts require close monitoring by a pediatrician and a pediatric neurologist. Infection is possible, and shunts can become blocked or otherwise fail. Revision surgery is common, and to be expected during childhood.
BIRTH INJURY LAWSUITS
Many cases of hydrocephalus are preventable. They occur because the doctor delivering the newborn, or another medical care provider, commits medical negligence. The baby suffers a head injury and traumatic brain damage, and hydrocephalus is the result. This could be grounds for a birth injury lawsuit.
Even if your baby develops hydrocephalus as a result of a congenital condition, you may be able to pursue compensation if the doctor failed to monitor your baby adequately and overlooked symptoms. A missed diagnosis is one way medical malpractice can occur.
You are encouraged to reach out today if you have questions about your case and if you qualify to pursue compensation related to your child’s birth injury or delayed treatment.
You May Only Have a Limited Time to Act
There are time limits on these cases. Each state sets its own statute of limitations, and many also have rules that may allow families to toll the statute of limitations for birth injury cases. This can make it difficult to know exactly how long you have to take legal action.
The best option to learn more about the time limits that may apply in your case is to speak with a lawyer familiar with the birth injury laws in your state. Many birth injury lawyers offer free case reviews and handle these cases with no out-of-pocket expenses to the child’s family.
TALK TO A BIRTH INJURY ATTORNEY IN YOUR STATE ABOUT YOUR CASE
If your newborn required treatment for hydrocephalus, you may have grounds for a birth injury case. This is most likely the case if the condition occurred because of a birth injury, or there was a delay in diagnosis and treatment. You may be eligible to pursue compensation and hold the doctor or hospital liable. Knowing that the prognosis for newborns with hydrocephalus is positive can be a relief. You still deserve to bring the parties at fault for your child’s condition to justice.
You can take action today by calling the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 278-9191. The Birth Injury Lawyers Group can listen to your story and help you connect with a lawyer in your state who regularly handles this type of birth injury case. Then, you will receive a free case evaluation and consultation with that attorney or a member of their staff.
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