Hydrocephalus and Cerebral Palsy

3 min read

mother holding newborn

Hydrocephalus, a condition caused by excess fluid inside the brain, enlarges and puts pressure on brain cavities called ventricles. This pressure can cause brain injuries that lead to conditions such as cerebral palsy. Learn more about the links between hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy.

What Is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a buildup of fluid in the brain. This buildup occurs deep in the brain’s ventricles and can cause excess pressure that leads to brain injuries.

Hydrocephalus can cause viral infections, internal bleeding, and a variety of other conditions that may occur at or near birth.

This condition is particularly serious in newborns as it may cause cerebral palsy or other permanent disabilities. Some children may even suffer from both hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy simultaneously.

As a result, babies and infants must be monitored closely by medical staff to ensure that they are not at risk for developing hydrocephalus.

The Relationship Between Hydrocephalus and Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a congenital disorder that affects movement, posture, and muscle tone. It is generally caused by a brain injury at or before birth, with symptoms appearing in early childhood. It is a lifelong condition with no cure, though it can often be managed with treatment.

Like cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus tends to affect newborns or fetuses. Hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy also share several causes, such as viral infections.

It is very important for doctors to be aware of the potential health risks for newborns, and to check for things such as infections in both the mother and fetus. Finding hydrocephalus early can lead to faster treatment and prevent lifelong injuries such as cerebral palsy.

Hydrocephalus Diagnosis & Treatments

The most common ways of diagnosing hydrocephalus are through computerized tomography (CT) scans or the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These imaging tests allow doctors to see if the ventricles in the brain are enlarged.

Once hydrocephalus has been diagnosed, doctors move to treat patients quickly. The faster the treatment, the better the prognosis tends to be.

The three main surgical options for treating hydrocephalus are:

  • Shunt: A shunt, or a flexible tube, can be implanted in the ventricle system of the brain. The shunt diverts the excess fluid to another region of the body where it can be absorbed.
  • Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV): ETV surgery punctures the third ventricle in the brain, which allows the fluid to naturally flow without the use of a shunt. Only a few patients are candidates for ETV.
  • Choroid Plexus Cauterization (CPC): In choroid plexus cauterization (CPC) surgery, the neurosurgeon will use a device to cauterize choroid plexus tissue. This helps to reduce the excess fluid in the brain. Like an ETV, only select patients are candidates for this type of surgery.

Tips To Prevent Hydrocephalus and Cerebral Palsy

Parents should be on the lookout for the symptoms of both hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy.

Symptoms of hydrocephalus in infants include:

  • Rapid changes in the size of the head
  • A head that is unusually large
  • A bulging spot at the top of the head
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness
  • Eyes fixated downward
  • Seizures

Common symptoms of cerebral palsy include:

  • Stiff or floppy muscle tone
  • Legs that cross or scissor
  • Child’s head lags or seems to act as if he is pushing away from you

If your child is exhibiting these symptoms, it is important to talk to a medical professional right away. A doctor can help to properly diagnose your child and provide you with treatment options. Both hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy can be treated with surgeries.

Learn More About Your Options After a Hydrocephalus Diagnosis

Birth injuries like hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy can be devastating both emotionally and financially. However, you are not alone. There are medical treatments, financial resources, and other important options that can help you and your child.

If your child has been diagnosed with hydrocephalus or cerebral palsy get a free case review from our website. We will help you learn your legal rights and learn more about treatment options and affording medical care.

Cerebral Palsy Guide was founded upon the goal of educating families about cerebral palsy, raising awareness, and providing support for children, parents, and caregivers affected by the condition. Our easy-to-use website offers simple, straightforward information that provides families with medical and legal solutions. We are devoted to helping parents and children access the tools they need to live a life full of happiness

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. “Seizures, Cerebral Palsy & Congenital Hydrocephalus: Evan's Story.” Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 7 Dec. 2018, www.chop.edu/stories/seizures-cerebral-palsy-congenital-hydrocephalus-evans-story.