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Hydrocephalus

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What is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus (commonly known as “water on the brain”) is the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) deep within the brain. The excessive Cerebral Spinal Fluid, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, can cause ventricles (spaces between the brain) to enlarge and place dangerous pressure on the brain’s tissue, sometimes even destroying it. This excessive pressure must be taken very seriously, as it can cause severe health problems and if left untreated, death.

Hydrocephalus can be congenital (present at birth), or acquired (after birth from a disease or head injury). When hydrocephalus is present at birth, it may have been because of events affecting fetal development or it may have been caused by a genetic defect.

Signs & Symptoms of Hydrocephalus

Symptoms of hydrocephalus vary based on age,  the cause of the excessive accumulation of CSF, as well as individual tolerance levels to increased CSF. Children and adults with hydrocephalus may experience:

  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Problems with vision and balance
  • Incontinence
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in personality
  • Memory loss
  • Developmental delays (in children)

Infants, however, are better able to adjust to excessive CSF levels because of the flexibility in their skull, making the most common sign of congenital hydrocephalus a fast expanding skull or oversized head.  Symptoms in infants can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Fussiness
  • Downward-pointing eyes (known as “sun setting”)
  • Seizures

Treatment for Hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus is generally treated with surgery.  A shunt system to redirect the flow of the cerebral spinal fluid from the brain to another area of the body is created with a catheter or tubing.  The shunt system allows excessive fluid to flow out of the brain to another area of the body, resulting in a relief from the pressure the excessive fluid was placing on the brain.

Problems can arise with shunt systems used to treat hydrocephalus. It is possible for the shunts to malfunction for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to a dislodging of the tubing, a blockage, and/or an infection.   Periodic replacement and additional procedures are often necessary to accommodate a child’s ongoing growth and increased height.

Common Mistakes Made in Diagnosing / Treating Hydrocephalus & Their Consequences

Medical malpractice and/or negligence can result when a physician or other health care professional that is involved in treating a patient for hydrocephalus fails to properly evaluate warning signs and symptoms of serious problems. The most common mistakes made in diagnosing and treating hydrocephalus include:

  • Prenatal failure to detect signs of & diagnose the Hydrocephalus condition
  • Failure to detect & fix malfunctioning shunts
  • Failure to detect & properly treat infected shunts

Consequences of the above mistakes can include:

  • Brain damage
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Loss of mental and physical abilities
  • Nerve damage
  • Seizures
  • Problems with vision
  • Death

Prenatal Testing for Congenital “Neonatal” Hydrocephalus

  • Ultrasound
  • Fetal MRI

What To Do After Hydrocephalus Malpractice

Experienced medical malpractice attorneys Michael L Weiss & Robert E Paarz have recovered millions of dollars for victims with brain damage resulting from failures to properly diagnose and treat hydrocephalus. If you or a loved one has been severely and permanently injured as a result of substandard medical care for hydrocephalus, contact us for a free consultation today.

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