What is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a medical condition in which too much fluid builds up around the brain and causes excessive pressure.  The term hydrocephalus comes from two Greek words:  “hydro” meaning water, and “cephalus” meaning head.  In layman’s terms, hydrocephalus is often referred to as “water on the brain.”  However, the “water” is actually cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear liquid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.  When too much CSF builds up in the brain, it widens the ventricles, which are spaces in the brain.  This widening causes dangerous pressure to build up in and around the brain.

There are several types of hydrocephalus.  The first type is communicating hydrocephalus.  In this type, the flow of CSF is blocked after it exits the brain’s ventricles.  However, the CSF can still travel between ventricles.  In noncommunicating hydrocephalus, CSF cannot travel between ventricles.  In either case, the normal flow of CSF is blocked or interrupted.

The causes of hydrocephalus are not well known.  In some instances, hydrocephalus occurs at birth and is the result of a genetic disorder that occurs in the developing fetus.  The condition is also associated with developmental disorders such as spina bifida and encephalocele.  Fluid buildup in the brain may be the result of complications, such an intrventricular hemorrhage, from a premature birth.  In other cases, the normal flow of CSF may be blocked due to meningitis, tumors or a traumatic brain injury.  In one study, hydrocephalus was 0.6 percent of all pediatric hospital admissions in the United States, and one to two of every 1,000 babies are born with the disease.

The symptoms of hydrocephalus very depending upon and the extent of the condition.  For example, infants are usually able to compensate better than adults to pressure buildup because their skulls aren’t fully developed and can actually expand.  However, signs of hydrocephalus in infants include an unusually large head or rapid head growth.  Adults with the condition usually experience headaches and vomiting.  Their eyes may also deviate downward, and they may experience blurred or double vision.

How is Hydrocephalus Treated?

Hydrocephalus is generally treated by surgically inserting a shunt system which drains excess CSF from the brain to other parts of the body, usually the abdominal cavity.  The shunt is a sturdy plastic tube.  However, the risks associated with a shunt include mechanical failure, obstructions and infections.

How Gallivan & Gallivan Can Help If Your Child Was Diagnosed with Hydrocephalus

If your child has been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, Gallivan & Gallivan may be able to help.  In many cases, hydrocephalus is caused by a brain injury which may have resulted from medical malpractice or neglect.  Our firm will thoroughly investigate your child’s medical records, including those during pregnancy, labor and immediately thereafter.  We will consult with pediatric neurologists to determine the cause of your child’s hydrocephalus.  If your child’s condition could have been prevented, we will recover compensation from the party or parties responsible.  Contact Gallivan & Gallivan here.

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