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Hydrocephalus: What Parents Should Know

parent holding newborn baby's hand

We all have a clear fluid that protects and cushions our brain and spine known as cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF. This fluid is reabsorbed into the bloodstream on a daily basis, and then is replenished. Too much CSF can keep the brain from functioning properly, which describes hydrocephalus.

A Necessary Balance

Hydrocephalus is a neurological disorder caused by the abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (salt water) in the cavities or ventricles deep within the brain. This excess fluid widens the ventricles, and it puts damaging pressure on the brain tissues.

This can occur at birth or shortly thereafter. It can also happen later in life due to damage or injury.

The body normally produces enough CSF each day and absorbs this same amount. Excess buildup prevents the brain from functioning normally and can cause brain damage or death.

Although this disorder can occur later in life, we are focusing here on infants and young children.

What Parents Should Know About Hydrocephalus

As a parent of a newborn there are some signs to watch for.

They may include the following:

  • Fussiness
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Poor appetite
  • Problem sucking or feeding
  • Sleepiness
  • Eyes looking down
  • Slowed development

Until a child is one year old, they still have their “soft spot” because their skull bones have not grown together yet. A child with hydrocephalus will have bulge in their soft spot and a rapid increase in their head size.

In addition, parents may notice large scalp veins.

Hydrocephalus happens if the flow of CSF is blocked or if a sufficient amount of CSF is not absorbed into the bloodstream.

Risk Factors and Treatments

Causes of hydrocephalus include spina bifida or when the spinal cord is not fully developed, when CSF flow is blocked, an infection during pregnancy, complications from prematurity, bleeding in the brain due to stroke or injury, a brain tumor, or an infection in the brain.

Once diagnosed through an MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan, there are several surgical procedures to remove the excess CSF including a shunt.

Parents Play a Role

It is essential that parents watch for any early signs of hydrocephalus. Pay special attention to Pediatric Neurosurgery Group and all the recommendations being offered. Your child may need more than one surgery, so love and support them.

Bring your child to every appointment.

Investigate early intervention programs. Your child may need physical therapy and occupational therapy to overcome early delays.

Contact Pediatric Neurosurgery Group at (313) 833-4490 if you have any suspicions your child may have hydrocephalus, or if your child has been diagnosed and you’d like to discuss treatment at our pediatric neurosurgery clinic in Detroit, MI.