Hydrocephalus occurs when the fluid in the brain cannot drain away into the bloodstream because the normal pathways are blocked. The fluid is still being made by the brain, so the buildup of fluid will cause pressure to rise inside the brain. A child with hydrocephalus may have abnormally large head measurements. They may experience difficulty feeding, irritability, delayed cognitive development, headaches, vomiting, blurred vision, difficulty walking and delayed growth.
Left untreated, hydrocephalus can cause permanent brain damage. Children with hydrocephalus can also experience learning delays, hormonal imbalances, seizures, and hearing and vision issues. Hydrocephalus is also common in children with Spina Bifida.
The most common treatment for hydrocephalus is surgery to put in a shunt, which is a tube that helps drain fluid from the brain. One end of the tube is usually placed in a ventricle of the brain and the other end is put in a part of the body where the cerebral spinal fluid can be more easily absorbed, such as the abdomen or the heart. Another option is a Ventriculostomy, which is a surgical procedure where a doctor creates a hole in one of the ventricles to help drain the fluid. This surgery is not an option for every child, and there is also a risk that the hole will close on its own.
The long-term prognosis for children with hydrocephalus depends on the severity and treatment. Children who also have spina bifida may have more long-term complications. Untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal. However, with early intervention, many kids with hydrocephalus go on to lead healthy lives.