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Hydrocephalus is a condition in newborns where fluid builds up around the brain. Also known as “water on the brain,” cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can build up and cause the opening of large throughways directly to the brain in which the cerebrospinal fluid can flow in excess amounts, causing damage. The expansion of these throughways, known as ventricles, causes a severe increase in pressure on the brain and brain tissue. This pressure can lead to brain damage, especially in newborns, when the natural movement of CSF is disrupted and the baby’s brain does not absorb the correct amount of the fluid.
There are several causes of hydrocephalus. It can be caused by genetic disorders, such as Dandy-Walker Syndrome, and other types of developmental disorders that can be associated with poor prenatal health. Babies who are born premature are also at risk of hydrocephalus due to bleeding in the brain’s ventricular system. There are also other causes of hydrocephalus, such as certain types of cysts, abscesses, and tumors, as well as meningitis. A brain injury while inside the womb can also lead to hydrocephalus.
A baby with hydrocephalus can often show serious side effects, such as seizures, lethargy and vomiting. Older people who have hydrocephalus show these symptoms and others, such as vision loss, incontinence, loss of balance, disassociated personality, memory loss, and problems with information retention. When a newborn is suffering from hydrocephalus, his or her head may also expand at an abnormally rapid rate. This is often noticed at regular wellness check-ups. Another tell-tale sign of hydrocephalus is a baby’s inability to focus on anything with their eyes, even after they are more than a month old.
If there are symptoms of hydrocephalus, your physician should begin with a CT scan, ultrasound, MRI, and several pressure-monitoring procedures to ensure a conclusive diagnosis. The age of the patient will affect what kind of testing the physician uses to make a diagnosis.
If the child is diagnosed with hydrocephalus, he or she is generally treated with an invasive surgery and the use of a shunt, or passageway, which diverts liquid from one part of the brain to other parts of the body where it can be more effectively absorbed. A shunt for hydrocephalus is generally comprised of various types of tubes and valves, as well as a testing reservoir that physicians can take samples from in order to test the fluid. The insertion of the shunt system ultimately diverts CSF away from the brain and into other parts of the body, decreasing fluid build-up on the brain and exponentially reducing the risk of serious brain damage.
When a physician or other healthcare professional is aware of the above symptoms, but either ignores them or fails to take the appropriate precautions and diagnosis measurements, you may have a potential medical malpractice claim. A medical malpractice claim can also arise if the patient has been diagnosed and treated for hydrocephalus, but the doctor fails to properly monitor the patient’s shunt.
If you have a child who has suffered from hydrocephalus and it was either not correctly diagnosed or improperly treated, call the medical malpractice attorneys at Richards & Richards, LLP at 412-261-2620 for a free consultation. For more than 50 years, our Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorneys have helped thousands of people, including babies, and their families get the compensation they deserve for their pain, suffering, lost future earnings, and medical bills. Call today.