Hydrocephalus involves a build up of excess fluid within the brain as a result of an obstruction in the brain that prevents proper fluid drainage.
This condition is usually present at birth, although it can develop later in life as a result of lesions or tumors within the brain, central nervous system infections or severe head injuries. Babies born prematurely with severe bleeding within the ventricles of the brain are likely to develop hydrocephalus, as well as those with development problems in the womb or certain genetic abnormalities. Hydrocephalus affects approximately one out of every 500 children.
Patients with hydrocephalus may experience many different symptoms depending on the patient’s age and the progression of the disease.
Infants born with this condition often have an unusually large head that increases in size, and may experience:
- Developmental delays
Older children and adults may experience:
- Blurred vision
- Balance problems
- Memory loss
- Urinary incontinence
Each patient may experience a different combination of symptoms depending on their individual condition. It is important to seek medical attention for hydrocephalus to prevent complications such as brain damage and physical disabilities and to help patients live a healthy, normal life.
In babies, hydrocephalus can often be diagnosed during a normal prenatal ultrasound or after the baby is born and an abnormally large head is noticed. In older children and adults, hydrocephalus is diagnosed through a neurological exam, and CT or MRI imaging tests as symptoms have developed.
The risk of hydrocephalus can be reduced by ensuring that women receive proper prenatal care during pregnancy and take precautions to protect themselves against infectious illnesses that can harm their child. Practicing safety guidelines can help prevent serious head injury and also reduce the risk of hydrocephalus.
Treatment and Surgery
Treatment for hydrocephalus usually involves surgery to restore proper fluid drainage within the brain. This may be done by placing a shunt within one of the ventricles of the brain leading to another part of the body where the excess fluid can be easily absorbed, such as in the abdomen or heart chambers. A ventriculostomy may also be performed to create a hole in the bottom of one of the brain’s ventricles, allowing fluid to flow normally.
After surgery, patients will likely need to undergo occupational therapy or psychology treatment to monitor developmental progress and detect any potential delays as soon as possible.