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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    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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    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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    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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    The symptoms of hydrocephalus depend on the cause of the blockage, the person's age, and how much brain tissue has been damaged by the swelling.

    In infants with hydrocephalus, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) builds up in the central nervous system, causing the fontanelle (soft spot) to bulge and the head to expand. Early symptoms may also include irritability, sunsetting eyes (eyes that appear to be pushed downward) and vomiting. Symptoms that occur later in the disease may include decreased mental function, difficulty feeding, excessive sleepiness and loss of bladder control.

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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. There are two surgical options for hydrocephalus:

    Shunts - most often, hydrocephalus is treated surgically with the placement of a shunt to bypass the blockage that is causing the buildup, or to create a better flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). A shunt is a tiny silicone tube that allows fluid to flow through it in one direction. A valve system regulates the flow and creates a reservoir of CSF. The valve can be tested often to make sure the shunt is working properly and that there are no signs of infection.

    Endoscopic third ventriculostomy - this surgery is an alternative to shunts and is effective for certain types of hydrocephalus. The surgery involves making a tiny hole in the ventricles to create a normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF. This is called an endoscopic approach because it uses an endoscope, a narrow tube that is inserted into affected area to bypass the blockage. This bypass creates a kind of detour for the flow of CSF. One benefit of this approach is that no foreign material is placed in the brain. Because of this, there are fewer infections and less risk of too much drainage of CSF.

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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.

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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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    The symptoms of acquired hydrocephalus vary, depending on age. If your baby is vomiting frequently, doesn't want to move their head or neck around, or is having seizures, take them to the doctor or emergency room right away. If your baby's head suddenly gets larger or they seem to change in appearance, call your doctor about what to do. Symptoms in older children vary, but can include vision problems, headache, difficulty walking or balancing, and downward deviation of the eyes, also referred to as sunsetting. If an older child is exhibiting these symptoms, call your doctor right away.

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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.