Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is excess fluid in the brain, and is a condition in infants. A large head may be a symptom along with rapid increase in head size or vomiting. If caught early, placement of a shunt to reduce the fluid can result in close to normal life. If not caught, brief lifespan an severe developmental problems will result. Prevention includes fetal monitoring and growth monitoring

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    There is not much you can do to prevent congenital hydrocephalus. The cause will not always be obvious, and a person with congenital hydrocephalus is born with it. However, pregnant women can take steps to reduce the risk of birth defects with effective prenatal care. It is thought that infections in the womb that affect the fetus may cause some cases of congenital hydrocephalus. Also, experts think there is a link between congenital hydrocephalus and neural tube defects, which are birth defects that affect the brain, the spinal cord, and the tissue that surrounds the spinal cord. Taking folic acid during before a pregnancy and through the first three months of pregnancy is thought to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

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    Hydrocephalus may be prevented by taking steps to reduce your chance of being affected by conditions that cause hydrocephalus. It is possible to detect birth defects and genetic abnormalities that can cause hydrocephalus by receiving proper prenatal screenings and ultrasounds. Early detection of defects that lead to hydrocephalus can result in procedures to repair the defect or abnormality before or shortly after the baby is born.

    Taking precautions to prevent injury to the head and spine may also reduce the risk of hydrocephalus. Receiving a vaccine for infections, such as meningitis, can limit the risk of contracting the types of infections that attack your nervous system and increase your risk of hydrocephalus.

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    Infections and other illnesses can lead to hydrocephalus. So it is important to keep your vaccinations current, and to treat all infections and illnesses in order to help prevent this potentially serious condition.

    Acquired hydrocephalus can also be caused by head injuries. Therefore, you and your children should always wear head protection during certain activities, like bicycling, skateboarding, or riding a motorcycle to help prevent head injuries. Make sure that you and your family also wear seatbelts to help avoid head injuries in case of an accident.

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    If your child is in school, it is best to inform the school of any special needs your child may have due to their hydrocephalus. A child with hydrocephalus may have impaired learning abilities due to increased pressure on their brain tissue. Your child's school should also know about hydrocephalus symptoms that require emergency attention. These symptoms include vomiting, trouble breathing, and difficulty bending the neck or moving the head. The school should also know if your child has a shunt in place and what care might be needed to attend to it.

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    Pediatric hydrocephalus is the accumulation of spinal fluid inside your child's brain. It is also known as "water on the brain." This can be a very dangerous condition since the normal production and recycling of spinal fluid throughout your child's neurological system is disrupted.

    Usually, hydrocephalus is discovered when a parent or doctor notices the child's head beginning to rapidly swell and enlarge. If your child is younger than six months, your pediatrician will probably order a computed tomography, or CT scan and refer you to a pediatric neurologist and/or neurosurgeon. Sometimes an ultrasound of the brain is also performed.

    A magnetic resonance imaging test, or MRI may be ordered, as a better diagnosis can be made at that age through MRI.

    Your doctor will also conduct a thorough physical and will ask for a detailed family and patient history.
    Your doctor may order further imaging of the brain and/or spine through ultrasound, CT, MRI or X-rays.
    Depending on the results of the imaging studies, your doctor will have to make a determination about the course of treatment. Often, other factors come in to play including:

    • Your child's specific symptoms
    • Results of eye exams
    • Changes in level of activity or school performance
    • Results of repeated imaging studies to look for changes in your child's brain
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    Infants diagnosed with acquired hydrocephalus usually have an abnormally large head. This is due to the fluid that accumulates in the brain. Once infants are treated with a shunt or another procedure designed to drain this excess fluid, their head size will be the same size as other children.

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    Because congenital hydrocephalus can cause brain damage that leads to problems with physical and mental development, you will need to keep a close eye on your child's development on a daily basis. Even if your child has had surgery to implant a shunt in the brain, there is still a risk of brain damage due to swelling in the brain. Your doctor may recommend that you seek the advice and help of experts, such as physical rehabilitation therapists and educational specialists. Sometimes, there are also complications with surgically implanted shunts. You will need to watch for signs that the shunt is not working correctly. Shunts can become clogged. Sometimes the area around the shunt becomes infected. As a child grows, the thin tube that makes up the shunt may end up being too short and will need to be replaced. If the symptoms of hydrocephalus return or if your child shows signs of infection around the shunt (such as redness and swelling, soreness, or a fever), you should talk to your doctor right away.

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    Pediatric hydrocephalus is the accumulation of spinal fluid inside your child's brain. It is also known as "water on the brain." This can be a very dangerous condition since the normal production and recycling of spinal fluid throughout your child's neurological system is disrupted. Some hydrocephalus conditions occur during pregnancy and others after birth. In addition, a small number can be transmitted genetically.

    In order to understand hydrocephalus it is important to understand how cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, normally flows. Inside the brain are the fluid-filled ventricles. CSF flows through the ventricles by way of channels that connect one ventricle to another. Eventually, the CSF is absorbed into the bloodstream. In order to maintain normal pressure inside the skull, the production, flow and absorption of CSF must be kept in balance.

    Hydrocephalus occurs when this balance is not maintained. It is usually a sign that there is an underlying problem. Your child's pediatric neurologist and neurosurgeon will work to determine the cause of the hydrocephalus and treat the underlying cause. There is every reason to believe that your child can have successful treatment of hydrocephalus if the underlying cause can be properly treated.

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    If your child is being tested for acquired hydrocephalus, their pediatrician has probably referred you to a specialist such as a neurologist. Acquired hydrocephalus is diagnosed with a physical exam and thorough neurological evaluation. Your child will also receive imaging diagnostics, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a computed tomography (CT), to see whether fluid has accumulated in the brain.

    Before the appointment, it is a good idea to be prepared with a list of symptoms your child has been experiencing, as well as any recent medications or injuries. Also, make sure that their pediatrician has forwarded your child's medical history to the specialist to review. Your child will most likely be anxious and nervous about the exam; your comfort and support will help them stay calm.

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    Problems in children with acquired hydrocephalus vary widely. Some will develop mental and physical development problems, while others will appear normal and asymptomatic. Many children with hydrocephalus have normal to above-average intelligence, but they may have learning disabilities that can be mistaken for behavioral problems. These problems can disappear at an early age, only to resurface in middle school. As a teacher, your support and assistance will help children with acquired hydrocephalus overcome development problems and succeed in school.