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Congenital Hydrocephalus - Topic Overview

How is it treated? continued...

In most cases, the doctor places a flexible tube, called a shunt, in the brain to drain the fluid. The shunt carries fluid to another part of the body (usually the belly or the heart), which then absorbs the fluid. The shunt may stay in the brain for life, though it may be have to be fixed or replaced later if it becomes blocked or infected.

A surgery called endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) may be used instead of a shunt in some cases. In ETV, a small hole is made in the deep part of the brain so that the fluid in the brain can flow freely.

Sometimes emergency treatment is needed to reduce the fluid. This may include medicines, a lumbar puncture (sometimes called a spinal tap), or a procedure to drain fluid from the brain until a shunt can be put in.

If your child has any developmental problems or delays caused by damage to the brain, your doctor can help you find the care you need. Treatment will focus on the specific problems your child has. For example, speech therapy can help with speech delays. Physical therapy can help with motor skill problems.

What kind of ongoing care will your child need?

No matter what kind of treatment your child has had, you and your child's doctors will need to watch your child closely to make sure that the fluid in the brain continues to drain properly. Pressure can build up in the brain again. Shunts can become blocked or infected. These problems need to be treated right away to prevent permanent damage.

Symptoms such as irritability, poor appetite, sleeping too much, and vomiting often may be signs that fluid has built up again in your child's brain. After early childhood, there may be other symptoms to watch for, such as headaches, vision problems, confusion, slurred speech, or problems walking. Shunt infections may also cause a fever and redness along the shunt tract or valve.

As your child grows, you'll need to watch for problems with brain development. These could include things like delayed learning, problems with motor skills, and speech problems. Talk to your doctor about any new problems or changes you notice.

It can be hard to wait and see if symptoms will return. And if your child has special needs, it can be a challenge to take care of him or her. Try to take good care of yourself. And ask your doctor about support groups and organizations that can help.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 24, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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