Birth Injuries: Better Understand Hydrocephalus

The following is an editorial from our founder: Ken Stern

The idea of a birth injury often brings to mind broken bones or bruising, simply because of our idea of an injury. Yet, the truth is that one of the most dangerous injury points, the brain, may not have such a visible trauma. Birth injuries can lead to a child being diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. However, another type of birth injury, hydrocephalus, is often less understood than even CP is by the general public.

Before we start explaining hydrocephalus caused by birth injury, we must begin with our understanding of hypoxia. One significant complication that may arise while the child is in utero, or during the birthing process, is an event where the baby is under severe distress. Such a circumstance is also known as fetal distress or hypoxia. In hypoxia, the fetus does not receive enough oxygen to the brain during labor. This may be caused by a number of factors, including the wrapping of the umbilical cord around the baby’s head and cutting off the oxygen supply. Prolonged deprivation of oxygen may contribute to brain damage that leads to a lifetime of care and assistance.

Hypoxia combined with complications or head/brain trauma during the birthing process may also cause intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) – bleeding inside the ventricles of the brain. When this occurs, it may eventually progress into hydrocephalus – swelling of the ventricles resulting from too much cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). Put in even simpler terms, hydrocephalus is basically water on the brain sometimes diagnosed in the months following birth. When this diagnosis of hydrocephalus occurs, the concern lies in the fact that the brain is damaged perhaps during labor and delivery and is not developing. Due to a lack of neural progress, symptoms of the condition can vary but ultimately limit healthy development.

When a child suffers from hydrocephalus, his or her head will appear larger than normal. Consequently, the space in the brain that is normally occupied by healthy brain tissue is instead filled with water (also known as CSF). Instead of developing a healthy “normal” functioning brain, a child with hydrocephalus may suffer from a whole host of impairments, such as developmental delays, seizures, and Cerebral Palsy.

Aside from increased growth of the head, there are other signs or symptoms of hydrocephalus to look for in your child. These include:

  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurred vision
  • High-pitched crying
  • Vomiting
  • Bulging soft spot
  • Loss of coordination
  • Downward deviation of the eyes

Reading your baby’s cues and monitoring the progress of the infant or child is critical due to the wealth of problems that can if the child is left untreated.

Through a neurological evaluation, MRI, CT, and other diagnostic tools, hydrocephalus may be diagnosed. There are treatment options available, depending on the recommendation of the treating physician, which may include the surgical placement of a shunt system that can divert the flow of CSF to other parts of the body. Complications can arise from this procedure, which may require additional surgeries if infections, mechanical failures, and obstructions develop. In addition to a team of physicians, other therapists such as child psychologists and occupational or educational therapists may have to be utilized.

If your child has been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, it is important that you have the diagnosis, as well as the events surrounding the birth, reviewed through a Medical Legal Review. Doing so can provide answers about the cause of your child’s hydrocephalus, as well as eligibility for your child to receive Lifetime Benefits that financially address decades of care, housing, equipment, therapy and more. Our care team can also connect you with crucial (non-legal) resources for children with special needs, regardless of your legal options. Call us at (800) 462-5772 or fill out our simple contact form for more information.

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