What is Water on the Brain?

“Water on the brain,” medically referred to as hydrocephalus, is a condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of a person’s brain. It can cause an increase in intracranial pressure inside a person’s skull and result in a progressive enlargement of their head, as well as causing the person to suffer from convulsions and various mental disabilities, and can be fatal. Related to the condition is normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), which can occur due to a gradual blockage of the CSF drainage pathway in a person’s brain.

The appearance of hydrocephalus is varied and is linked to its severity, and can also be affected by a person’s age, the reason for the blockage, and how much tissue of the brain has been hurt by the swelling. Common symptoms of significant intracranial pressure include nausea, vomiting, excessive sleepiness, papilledema, and headaches. A person can also slip into a coma as a result of the increase in pressure or suffer from life-threatening compression to the brain stem. Other common manifestations of hydrocephalus include urinary incontinence, gait instability, epilepsy, and dementia.

For babies that suffer from water on the brain, their symptoms include seizures, vomiting, irritability, excessive sleepiness, difficulty feeding, uncontrolled eye movements, slow growth, and the manifestation of eyes that seem to be unable to look upwards.

Treatment for the condition of water on the brain involves a surgical operation to insert a shunt to allow excess CSF an exit pathway and to relieve the pressure on a person’s brain. The shunt is placed in the brain’s ventricular system to redirect the flow of CSF into another part of a person’s body where it can be absorbed into the person’s bloodstream.

The overall outlook for those that are diagnosed with water on the brain depends on the timing of the diagnosis, its treatment, and its cause. Children that are treated for the condition are sometimes able to lead lives that are relatively normal with very few limitations. However, as has been noted, hydrocephalus can cause life-long damage, and there are risks and complications associated with shunt operations.

If you believe you or your infant is suffering from water on the brain, you should seek medical attention right away. After you or your baby receives treatment, consult with a Pennsylvania hospital negligence lawyer who will help you conclude whether the medical condition was caused by someone’s negligence.

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