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Hydrocephalus

What Is Hydrocephalus?

Neonatal hydrocephalus is a condition in which excess fluid, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), accumulates in the brain. CSF is a clear substance that protects the brain, however, hydrocephalus occurs when too much of it accumulates. The effects of excess fluid on the brain include a widening of the ventricles and excessive pressure on the tissues of the brain.
There are two types of hydrocephalus: congenital and acquired. Congenital hydrocephalus is present at birth and may be caused by prenatal occurrences during fetal development or genetic abnormalities. Acquired hydrocephalus develops at the time of birth or at some point afterward. It is usually caused by a birth injury.

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What Causes Hydrocephalus?

In a healthy infant, cerebrospinal fluid:
  • Flows through the ventricles
  • Exits into cisterns (closed spaces that serve as reservoirs) at the base of the brain
  • Bathes the surfaces of the brain and spinal cord
  • Gets reabsorbed into the blood stream
The fluid serves the important function of maintaining a specific buoyancy level in the intracranial space to:
  • Absorb shock
  • Provide nutrients to the brain tissues
  • Help the brain adapt to changes in blood volume in the intracranial compartments
Hydrocephalus results when inflow and drainage of cerebrospinal fluid are disrupted in the cranial spaces. Disruption of cerebrospinal fluid flow can occur as a result of:
  • Cerebral sinus-thrombic or arterial-ischemic stroke
  • Intracranial hemorrhage
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Direct head trauma
  • Infection
  • Tumors
  • Complications from surgery
Other risk factors include:
  • Prematurity
  • Infant brain damage
  • Instrumental deliveries

What Are Hydrocephalus Symptoms in Babies?

The symptoms of hydrocephalus in the neonatal period are different from those seen in children or adults. An ultrasound can detect hydrocephalus that occurs prenatally by showing enlarged ventricles in the fetal brain. Usually, hydrocephalus will be noticed at birth if a child has an unusually large head or if there is an increase in the child’s head circumference during the neonatal period. Other symptoms of hydrocephalus in babies include:
  • Overly sleepy or inactive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Shrill crying
  • Vomiting
  • “Sun-setting” or a downwardly-facing gaze
  • Seizures

Is There Treatment for Hydrocephalus?

Treatment for hydrocephalus is usually dependent on the severity of the condition. Surgical shunts may be placed in the brain to help drain cerebrospinal fluid from the ventricles, normalizing intracranial pressure. Far less frequently, hydrocephalus is transient and resolves on its own. Medications may also be used in cases where acute management is necessary. These medications may include:
  • Acetazolamide (decreases cerebrospinal fluid secretion)
  • Furosemide (decreases cerebrospinal fluid secretion)
  • Isosorbide (increases cerebrospinal fluid reabsorption)

Speak With Our Birth Injury Attorneys About Your Situation

If your child has suffered from hydrocephalus, our birth injury lawyers may be able to help you.
Call us at (877) 262-9767 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We represent families nationwide and have offices in Chicago IL, Baltimore MD, New York NY, and Wilmington DE.