Approximately 1 million Americans deal with the effects of hydrocephalus. This condition can impact people in every stage of life. From infants to elders, the impacts of hydrocephalus continue to cause limitations for people of every socioeconomic background. In some cases, babies suffer hydrocephalus injuries at birth. In fact, one in every 770 babies born will develop hydrocephalus as a result of head trauma during childbirth.
Dealing with the mental and physical impacts of hydrocephalus can be devastating. Babies who suffer from this condition deal with overwhelming mental and physical pain and suffering. The tremendous expenses related to medications, therapy, and other treatment often make the situation even more difficult to endure. Seeing a small child suffer is difficult in itself, even more difficult knowing that it could have been avoided. When babies are harmed as a result of medical negligence, it is crucial that their families reach out to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Families may be able to obtain compensation from those responsible to cover the costs of medical treatment and other expenses they face.
Our team at The Malpractice Group understands the needs of victims and their families after dealing with grievous birth injuries. When babies suffer hydrocephalus injuries, we compassionately fight to ensure they are able to get the compensation they need to cover medical expenses and other financial burdens they face as they move forward. Our aggressive medical malpractice attorneys stop at nothing to make sure families are in the best mental, physical, and financial positions possible in order to move forward from these traumatic experiences. Contact our law firm at your earliest convenience to see how we can assist you.
What is Hydrocephalus?
Traumatic injuries to a newborn’s head and oxygen deprivation are leading causes of bleeding in the brain. As a result of the bleeding inside the brain’s ventricles, some ventricles become fluid-filled and push up against the brain. The fluid inside the ventricles is a mix of cerebrospinal fluid, cellular products, and blood. When the ventricles swell up, it can push the brain against the skull, which can cause brain damage in a number of ways.
Hydrocephalus can cause damages to the brain in one of three ways. The first type of damage occurs directly to the brain’s white matter. These damages are the result of cerebrospinal fluid entering into the white matter tissues, which causes a decrease in blood flow to the area. Hydrocephalus can cause destruction to the membrane that covers the brain, which causes the vessels to malfunction.
A hydrocephalus injury progresses in phases. These include, but are not limited to:
- IVH (other brain insults)
- A disturbance in the cerebrospinal fluid dynamics
- Swelling within the ventricles
- Brain damages
Although there are various conditions that can cause hydrocephalus, it often begins with brain hemorrhage injuries like germinal matrix hemorrhage (GMI) or intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). When babies suffer from hydrocephalus, due to the negligence of medical professionals, it is crucial that their families reach out to a birth injury attorney as soon as possible. Families deserve justice for the pain and suffering they are forced to endure.
Causes of Hydrocephalus in Babies
Hydrocephalus is a term commonly used to refer to someone having water on the brain. It is important to note that this is not entirely true. The brain is surrounded by a fluid that is called cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid performs three critical functions. First, it protects the brain from any damage caused by the skull or outside forces.
Cerebrospinal fluid also works to remove the waste products from the brain and provides the brain with key nutrients it needs. The brain works by constantly producing new cerebrospinal fluid and releasing the old fluids. As new fluids are made in the brain, old fluids are absorbed into the blood vessels. Trauma or other interruptions can cause cerebrospinal fluids to build up and add pressure to the brain. Some of the most common causes of hydrocephalus include:
- A blockage in one or more of the ventricles in the brain that prevents old cerebrospinal fluid from exiting
- A problem with the arachnoid villi that prevents fluids from filtering into the blood vessels
- The brain is overproducing cerebrospinal fluid
Head trauma, as well as the preventable transmission of infections, are some of the ways medical negligence can contribute to the development of this debilitating condition.
The Signs and Symptoms of Hydrocephalus
There are various signs and symptoms that indicates baby is having hydrocephalus. Many physical signs and symptoms are easy to recognize. Some of the most common physical characteristics of babies with this condition include:
- The baby’s head may appear large for its size and age
- The baby’s scalp may appear thin and shiny with extremely visible veins
- The baby may have bulging or tense soft spots on the top of their head
- The baby’s eyes may appear to be looking down at all times
- There may be stiffness in the baby’s lower limbs or muscle spasms
Aside from physical characteristics, some behavioral symptoms are also more commonly associated with hydrocephalus babies. These include:
- Being sick
- Extreme drowsiness
- Poor feeding habits
If your baby was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, and you believe the condition was the result of medical negligence, contact our law firm to discuss legal options available for you.
Diagnosis of Hydrocephalus
Preventing a germinal matrix hemorrhage and an intraventricular hemorrhage is extremely important. In cases where these injuries are unable to be prevented, responding, and treating the injuries quickly and accurately is vital. Neonatal experts indicate that every premature baby admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit is at risk for suffering a hemorrhage. For this reason, it is crucial that they are all screened for hydrocephalus. Additionally, it is safe to assume that infants who have enlarged heads at birth and those whose serial measurements of the head indicate that excessive head growth may occur may have this devastating condition. Babies who may be vulnerable to these injuries should be tested frequently to ensure early detection is made.
When it comes to diagnosing a hydrocephalus child, there are various tools that can be used. Each tool provides its own benefits for doctors and allows them to detect and monitor these injuries accurately. One of the most common diagnostic tools doctors use is ultrasound imaging.
Ultrasounds are the main tool used to diagnose this condition in newborns. Ultrasounds are extremely beneficial for locating and diagnosing both hemorrhages and hydrocephalus. Ultrasounds are the preferred method as they allow doctors to explore and take pictures through the use of sound waves rather than radiation. They allow doctors to gather critical information about:
- Identifying the hemorrhage
- Grading the severity of the hemorrhage impacting the child based on the presence and the amount of blood in the germinal matrix
- The timing of the hemorrhage
Once the injury is identified, it is imperative to measure the ventricular dilation to determine the extent of the injury. Most doctors reference the ventricular index to determine the distance near the ventricles. By comparing the ventricular index to the reference ranges, doctors are able to distinguish the difference between the baby’s brain and a normal brain to determine the extent of the abnormality.
Through the use of ultrasounds, doctors are able to measure the ventricular size, the location, and the extent of bleeding between the tissue and the surrounding areas of the brain. Once hydrocephalus is identified in a baby, the severity of the injury will dictate the treatment that is provided. If the ventricular index exceeds a certain number, it can indicate that the baby needs to have the cerebrospinal fluids drained from the ventricles.
The draining procedure is generally done through the use of a lumbar puncture. This procedure requires a physician to insert a needle into the affected area to extract the cerebrospinal fluid from the ventricles and detect any abnormalities in the water on the brain baby. This is a critical part of recognizing intracranial hemorrhages early on. A higher protein level in the cerebrospinal fluid indicates that the injury is more severe.
Another diagnostic tool utilized by physicians is the magnetic resonance imaging scan, also known as the MRI. MRIs send radio waves through a magnetic field to produce highly detailed images of bones, nerves, tissues, and organs. MRIs provide critical information that is useful to doctors for diagnosing hydrocephalus. MRIs provide clear views of the brain’s white matter, which allows doctors to predict the developmental and neurodevelopmental prognosis for affected children. Furthermore, MRIs enable doctors to clearly see signs of ventricular enlargement to determine if it is caused by built-up spinal cord fluids or atrophy.
Once hydrocephalus is identified, doctors can use the information they find to determine plans for treating and managing the condition.
Types of Hydrocephalus
There are three types of hydrocephalus that can impact a person. The age in which the condition develops indicates the type of hydrocephalus patients deal with. Knowing the type helps doctors form treatment plans for the patients. The three types of hydrocephalus are:
- Congenital Hydrocephalus: This type of hydrocephalus begins in infancy and can be caused by congenital disabilities, or it can be the result of an infection that passes on to the child from the mother. When hydrocephalus is presented early in life, it carries long-term risks for both mental and physical disabilities. Hydrocephalus is often a result of permanent brain damage.
- Acquired Hydrocephalus: This type of hydrocephalus can impact either children or adults. It often develops after a patient suffers from an illness or an injury. For example, a serious head injury or complications from medical conditions, like brain tumors.
- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH): The final type of hydrocephalus typically impacts people over the age of 50-years-old. This condition sometimes develops subsequent to a stroke or a traumatic head injury. Although NPH is considered a rare condition, the average age of people diagnosed with it is 75-years-old.
No matter when hydrocephalus is diagnosed, it can have a detrimental impact on a patient’s life.
The Long-Term Effects of Hydrocephalus
Babies who are diagnosed with neonatal hydrocephalus often suffer an array of complications. Hydrocephalus is permanent brain damage that continues to impact the health and well-being of children well into adulthood. Some of the ways this condition impacts the lives of victims include causing:
- Learning disabilities
- Speech problems
- Memory issues
- Short attention spans
- Minimal organizational skills
- Vision problems/visual impairments
- Physical coordination problems
Babies diagnosed with hydrocephalus early-on will undergo various forms of therapy. In some cases, therapy will continue indefinitely to continue working and strengthening various skills. When babies suffer as a result of medical negligence, families should reach out to a birth injury attorney as soon as possible. They may be entitled to compensation to help cover the long-term costs of treatment.
The Malpractice Group Can Help You
Sustaining a birth injury not only negatively impacts a child, but causes widespread pain and suffering to families in general. The mental, physical, and financial consequences of these horrific injuries are far-reaching. When babies sustain hydrocephalus as a result of medical negligence, it is crucial that families reach out to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Those harmed may be entitled to compensation to help alleviate the costs of medical care and various other damages they face.
Our birth injury lawyers at The Malpractice Group of Wais Vogelstein Forman & Offutt have decades of experience fighting to protect the legal rights and best interests of families subjected to the negative consequences of birth injuries. We understand the challenges families endure, which is why we are dedicated to helping them collect the maximum amount of compensation available for medical treatment, lost wages, and various other damages they face consequent to these preventable injuries. Our firm strives to help families move forward in the best way imaginable, given the extremely unfortunate circumstances they face. Contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (312) 561-4324 to schedule a free no-obligation consultation at your earliest convenience to see how our team can help you get justice.