Hydrocephalus is a condition that is commonly referred to as “water on the brain.” It occurs when there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of a person’s brain. It is a very serious condition that can cause an increase in intracranial pressure inside a person’s skull as well as a progressive enlargement of a person’s head, causing them to suffer from convulsions and/or mental disabilities. It can also be fatal.
The condition can arise before birth or at any time afterwards, and can be caused by a birth defect, infection, tumor, brain hemorrhage, meningitis, or a head injury. The symptoms of hydrocephalus depend on a person’s age, the reason for the blockage, and how much tissue of the brain is damaged by the swelling. In babies, the most obvious indicator of the condition is an abnormally large head, caused by a buildup of CSF in the central nervous system, which causes the fontanelle to enlarge. This is one of the major reasons a baby’s head should be measured at every visit to a doctor.
Other symptoms of hydrocephalus in babies are:
- Uncontrolled eye movements;
- Difficulty feeding;
- Slow growth; and
- Eyes that seem to look downwards and aren’t able to look upwards.
Additionally, approximately one in four people diagnosed with hydrocephalus develop epilepsy.
Hydrocephalus treatment is surgical, and involves inserting a shunt into a baby’s brain to allow the excess fluid to drain, relieving the pressure on the brain. The shunt diverts the CSF flow from the brain into another part of the infant’s body so the CSF can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
If a baby is diagnosed with hydrocephalus, their prognosis depends on the timing of the diagnosis and the treatment they receive. Many infants diagnosed with this condition whose parents seek appropriate treatment quickly are able to lead relatively normal lives with very few, if any, restrictions. However, in many cases, an infant will suffer cognitive impairments in language and non-language functions. Complications from hydrocephalus surgery can also cause an infant to suffer infections, and problems may necessitate a revision of the shunt.
If you believe your baby may suffer from water on the brain, consult with medical professionals immediately. After seeking treatment for your infant, you should consult with a personal injury attorney to determine whether your baby’s medical condition was the result of negligence on the part of healthcare providers during the birth process or afterwards.