Hydrocephalus is when there’s a build-up of fluid in the brain. While many call this “water on the brain,” it’s cerebrospinal fluid or CSF that is building up.
When left untreated, the patient can have severe consequences. People of any age can develop hydrocephalus; however, it’s more common in newborns.
If you are concerned your baby has hydrocephalus, speak with an experienced New Mexico medical malpractice lawyer right away.
In the meantime, here’s a look at precisely what is hydrocephalus and what the potential complications are when a medical provider is guilty of failure to diagnose hydrocephalus.
What Is Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus occurs when cerebral spinal fluid builds up in the brain’s ventricles, increasing their size. The extra fluid starts to put added pressure on the brain.
While cerebrospinal fluid typically flows through the ventricles, the added pressure can cause brain function problems and permanently damage the brain tissue.
Symptoms will vary in infants, but the usual ones involve changes to the head, such as a baby who develops an unusually large head or has a tense soft spot or bulging spot on the top.
Other physical signs and symptoms to watch for include:
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Poor eating,
- Lethargy or sleepiness,
- Eyes fixed downward,
- Irritability, and
- Issues with muscle strength and tone.
As children age, other symptoms might develop. Some of these are physical, such as unstable balance or loss of bladder control. Other symptoms involve cognitive and behavioral changes, such as problems or delays with previously acquired skills like talking or walking.
Treatment for hydrocephalus usually involves placing a shunt to divert the cerebrospinal fluid elsewhere in the body. This flexible tube helps relieve pressure on the brain and lets the body reabsorb it. Sometimes shunts fail and need to be replaced, so the pressure does not build up again.
Another possible treatment option is an endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV). This procedure involves making a tiny hole at the base of the third ventricle, which diverts the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
This treatment might be done in conjunction with a choroid plexus cauterization, which will attempt to decrease CSF production.
To properly diagnose hydrocephalus, medical providers use a clinical neurological exam, brain imaging techniques, and potentially other tests as necessary.
Potential brain imaging tests include:
- Computed tomography (CT),
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI),
- Intracranial pressure monitoring (ICP), and
- A lumbar puncture, known as a spinal tap.
Neurological exams include checks for balance and coordination, muscle strength, reflexes, vision and hearing, and mental functioning.
Failure to Diagnose Hydrocephalus in New Mexico
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) estimates that one to two out of every 1,000 babies develop hydrocephalus at birth.
Failure to diagnose hydrocephalus can result in lifelong consequences. It can also open the door to a medical malpractice claim.
Hydrocephalus in infants may not be immediately evident, but it can be detected. Your baby’s doctor should measure their head regularly throughout the first year.
If the measurements show your baby’s head circumference is in an increasingly high percentile when compared to other babies of the same age, it could be an indicator that your child has hydrocephalus.
If hydrocephalus is left untreated, it can be deadly. An early diagnosis and proper treatment plan can improve a patient’s prognosis.
Contact a New Mexico Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you suspect you have a case for a failure to diagnose hydrocephalus in New Mexico, let the skilled team at Poulos & Coates, LLP assist you. We have decades of combined experience and a medical doctor and nurse on staff.