What is congenital hydrocephalus?
Congenital hydrocephalus is a buildup of excess
cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain at birth. The
extra fluid can increase pressure in the baby's brain , causing brain damage and
mental and physical problems. This condition is rare.
Finding the condition early and treating it
quickly can help limit any long-term problems. But long-term effects mostly
depend on what caused the fluid buildup, how bad it gets, and how the baby
responds to treatment.
hydrocephalus doesn't occur until later in life, it is called acquired
hydrocephalus. This topic focuses on hydrocephalus that is present at birth
What causes congenital hydrocephalus?
condition is caused by an imbalance between how much fluid the brain makes and
how well the body is able to process it.
Normally, fluid flows
through and out of chambers of the brain called ventricles, and then around the
brain and spinal cord. The fluid is then absorbed by the thin tissue around the
brain and spinal cord. But with hydrocephalus, the fluid can't move where it
needs to or is not absorbed as it should be. And in rare cases the brain makes
too much fluid.
Congenital hydrocephalus may happen because
What are the symptoms?
The clearest symptom of
hydrocephalus is a head that is larger than normal. You and your doctor may
notice it when the baby is born or within the first several months of life. It's normal for a baby's head to grow a lot during the first year. But with congenital hydrocephalus, the head may grow faster than the normal rate for a baby's height
condition may cause the
soft spot (fontanelle) on your baby’s head to feel
firm or bulge out. Also, the areas between the skull bones (sutures ) may be larger than normal.
If pressure builds in the brain, your baby may:
- Be irritable.
- Sleep too
- Eat very little.
How is congenital hydrocephalus diagnosed?
A fetal ultrasound can sometimes show the problem before birth. But most cases are found during a
physical exam soon after birth. Your
doctor may suspect that your baby has congenital hydrocephalus if your baby’s
head is larger than normal.
Your baby may need imaging tests,
such as a
CT scan, an
MRI, or an
ultrasound, that can give a picture of the brain with
more detail. Genetic tests may be done in some cases.
How is it treated?
Early treatment—before age 4 months—is important to help limit or prevent brain
damage. Treatment focuses on reducing the amount of fluid in the brain to relieve