Hydrocephalus develops when there is an excess of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. Although cerebrospinal fluid is normal and an essential component of the brain's functioning, excessive amounts can be harmful. It can cause brain damage or even loss of life if not treated. If your minor suffers hydrocephalus as a result of a birth injury or if the healthcare facility fails to diagnose the condition, you could have a legitimate medical malpractice claim. We at the Phoenix Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm can help you file your birth injury claim to get what you deserve.
Overview Of Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus involves the accumulation of fluid within the brain's cavities. The buildup of excess fluid expands the ventricles of the brain, causing extreme pressure on the minor's brain. The normal circulation of cerebrospinal fluid through the brain's ventricles protects and cushions the spine and brain. When the cerebrospinal fluid pressure is too high, it damages brain tissues and causes various cognitive problems.
Hydrocephalus comes in three different types. Normal-pressure hydrocephalus, which is common in elderly individuals, and obstructive hydrocephalus are the three types of hydrocephalus. This condition is frequently seen in children with myelomeningocele. The spinal column's inability to properly close is what causes myelomeningocele, a birth defect.
Other possible causes include:
- Trauma or injury.
- Pregnancy-related infections.
- Brain bleeding during or after premature delivery.
- Injuries that occur before, during, or after childbirth.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhaging.
- Central nervous system tumors of the brain and spine.
The critical medical condition known as hydrocephalus also referred to as "water on the brain," can cause your loved one to experience lifelong issues. The likelihood that your child may receive a more favorable diagnosis may rise with prompt medical care.
Causes Of Hydrocephalus
The excessive buildup of fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain is what causes hydrocephalus. This fluid is referred to as cerebrospinal fluid. It flows through the spinal cord and brain in healthy babies and adults before entering the bloodstream.
Cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the body when the fluid flow is either blocked, doesn't get into the bloodstream, or the brain is put under too much pressure. The brain could be forced up against the skull as a result of this pressure, harming the brain's tissue.
Birth defects like myelomeningocele can occur if the spinal column and backbone don't close properly before birth. When both sides of the spine don't join to protect the nerves and spinal cord, it causes a type of spina bifida. The spinal cord can protrude from the young one's back as a result of the spinal column's incomplete development.
Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)
This is a natural protectant that cushions and surrounds the spinal cord and the brain. The brain's lining tissues secrete cerebrospinal fluid, which circulates through the ventricles and interconnecting channels of the brain. Blood vessels close to the brain's base normally absorb it.
The cerebrospinal fluid should be in the proper balance to keep the brain buoyant, allow it to float normally inside the skull, protect it from harm, and get rid of waste products from its metabolic processes. Cerebrospinal fluid aids the body in maintaining stable pressure in the brain, which makes up for fluctuations in blood pressure.
This occurs when there is bleeding in the gap between the brain and its surrounding membranes. It can occasionally cause vomiting, nausea, and unconsciousness. Brain trauma, a brain aneurysm, or a blood vessel entanglement are the three main causes of subarachnoid hemorrhaging. This is a critical medical condition that, if untreated, could be fatal.
Infants can be diagnosed with acquired or congenital hydrocephalus for various reasons. Among these are:
- Abnormal central nervous system development.
- Hemorrhaging within the brain's ventricles is mostly common in premature infants.
- Uterine infection, usually caused by syphilis or rubella.
- Spinal cord or brain tumors.
- Infections of the central nervous system, such as mumps or bacterial meningitis.
- Brain bleeding as a result of a stroke.
- Traumatic injuries to the brain that occurs shortly after or during birth.
Signs and Symptoms of Hydrocephalus
The signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus in infants can be more challenging to distinguish from those in adults and children. Excess fluid buildup on the brain frequently manifests itself first as:
- A significantly large head.
- A rapid change in the head's size or shape.
- A noticeable swelling of the soft spot.
Some of the common symptoms and signs of hydrocephalus that can prompt testing and diagnosis in infants and newborns with this condition include:
- Unusual head changes.
- A significantly larger head.
- A sudden growth in head size.
- A soft spot or fontanelle that is bulging.
- Excessive sleepiness.
- Excessive vomiting.
- Unexplained irritability.
- Disinterest in feeding.
- Always has downcast eyes.
- Having weak and poor toned muscles.
- Weak muscular strength.
- Unresponsiveness to touch.
When your newborn exhibits some or all of these signs of hydrocephalus, a pediatrician or other qualified healthcare provider will conduct examinations and tests to make a complete and final diagnosis.
Factors That Can Cause Hydrocephalus
In adult-onset situations, the root cause of this health condition remains unknown. Inadequate brain and spinal cord development in infants can result in hydrocephalus, which is present soon after or during birth. This condition can cause a blockage in the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid.
Another factor that could contribute to the condition is bleeding in the ventricles of the brain, which is often regarded as a risk factor for premature delivery. Other potential causes for hydrocephalus include uterine infection during pregnancy, inflammation of fetal tissue in the brain, tumors or lesions on the spine or brain, infections of the central nervous system, and traumatic injuries to the brain.
Long-Term Complications Brought On By Hydrocephalus
Mild cases of the condition, with quick diagnosis and treatment, can have few to no long-term complications. In other instances, hydrocephalus is a serious and permanent injury to the brain that can have a variety of effects on your child's development.
Long-term complications of hydrocephalus include cognitive impairment, physical disabilities, and developmental delays. The underlying illness, cause, and specific complexity of your baby's initial symptoms will all affect how severe the complications are.
The Prognosis For Hydrocephalus In Newborns
It can be challenging to determine a patient's exact prognosis if they have hydrocephalus. Surgery can offer some relief, but it could also call for additional surgeries throughout the child's lifetime. Hydrocephalus can also result in other issues and complications with different prognoses.
The hydrocephalus condition can also cause delays in physical and cognitive development. Normal pressure hydrocephalus symptoms can get worse with time if left untreated. Progressive hydrocephalus is relatively rare, but when it occurs, it can be fatal if untreated. Early detection and treatment of the condition provide the best chance for a successful recovery.
Hydrocephalus and Traumatic Brain Injury
If there was any brain damage sustained by the pressure buildup brought on by hydrocephalus, it would have an impact on the child's development. However, a variety of factors determine how significant this role will be. While some young children have average intelligence, others need special education support.
Some children might only have mild developmental delays or behavioral issues, depending on the part of their brain that is affected and the extent of the damage. To learn how to manage independent living tasks and self-care, some people may need to undergo years of occupational, speech, and physiotherapy.
Types Of Hydrocephalus
Hydrocephalus comes in two different types:
- Non-obstructive, communicating hydrocephalus.
- Obstructive, noncommunicating hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus can be acquired or congenital. Communicating hydrocephalus can be further subdivided into hydrocephalus ex-vacuo and normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). Hydrocephalus in newborns is usually non-communicating. Birth injuries can result in acquired, noncommunicating hydrocephalus.
Methods Used to Diagnose Hydrocephalus
In most cases, hydrocephalus can be detected through visual examination. When an infant or newborn has a larger-than-normal head size and what looks to be a bulging fontanelle, hydrocephalus should be examined. If your child vomits or sleeps excessively, has persistently downcast eyes, is agitated, or exhibits other unusual seizures, your healthcare provider might perform the following tests to arrive at a thorough diagnosis.
Your baby's physicians and healthcare practitioners may order imaging tests after a comprehensive neurological and physical examination to get a detailed and clear image of your infant's brain. Imaging tests might consist of:
Ultrasounds produce imaging studies of the brain using high-frequency sound waves. It's a low-risk and painless treatment done on the child's fontanelle near the top of his or her head. Additionally, a pregnancy ultrasound can be used to detect hydrocephalus before your baby is born.
A magnetic resonance imaging scan generates pictures of the brain of a newborn by combining a magnetic field with radio waves. These are three-dimensional, cross-sectioned photographs of the brain that are highly detailed. Despite magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) being painless, it tends to be loud and requires the baby to lie completely still.
This is a highly sophisticated form of X-ray that creates cross-sectional images of the brain. CT scans are quick, easy, and painless. However, it requires you to be completely still and may even call for some mild sedation.
A fontanelle is the area of your baby's head where the plate-like bony structures of the skull haven't entirely fused. It is also known as a soft spot. Infants often have a fontanelle on the top and rear parts of their heads, which can be felt and seen. A significantly large fontanelle usually indicates a severe medical problem.
Personal Injury Cases and Hydrocephalus Lawsuits
A hydrocephalus diagnosis can be used to back up a medical malpractice claim in one of two ways:
- The medical professional or care provider who delivered the child was to blame for any head trauma or other injuries to the brain.
- The baby suffered a brain injury because the medical professional delayed diagnosing hydrocephalus.
In either scenario, you could sue the healthcare provider or facility for compensation. Medical expenses, out-of-pocket expenses, rehabilitation and therapy, suffering and pain, and other expenses incurred could all be included in the damages. Having a hydrocephalus birth injury lawyer examine your case can explain to you when you can file a lawsuit and what you need to show to be awarded damages.
Medical professionals have a duty to adhere to protocols and provide all patients with a level of care that is up to par. Your personal injury attorney can develop evidence that the healthcare provider fell short of upholding the appropriate level of care, like ordering a cesarean section operation before the baby suffered harm during a challenging delivery.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
Most cases involving a hydrocephalus condition can be avoided. They happen as a result of medical malpractice on the part of the doctor who delivered the baby or another healthcare professional. The infant sustains catastrophic brain damage and a head injury, leading to hydrocephalus. This can qualify as evidence in a birth injury claim.
If the healthcare provider neglected to carefully monitor your infant and missed symptoms, your attorney can help you to seek compensation even if your newborn develops a congenital hydrocephalus condition. One example of medical malpractice is a missed diagnosis. If your child is diagnosed with a hydrocephalus condition, the most important thing you'll want to focus on is to make sure they receive the best health care possible, which will lead to a positive prognosis.
Since birth-related injuries frequently result in hydrocephalus, hiring a personal injury lawyer who is knowledgeable about the potential causes of the condition can help you understand your options for damages. If you have concerns about your claim and want to know if you can seek compensation for the birth damage or delayed treatment of your child, you get in touch with a professional personal injury lawyer.
Statute Of Limitations For Filing a Hydrocephalus Claim
Such cases are subject to deadlines. Each jurisdiction has its regulations governing the duration that you have to wait before filing a lawsuit against the responsible physician or healthcare facility in your situation. Some jurisdictions may extend the deadline for filing a claim because your baby was too young when the incident happened.
It could be challenging to determine with precision the length of time you have to file a lawsuit due to this factor. To better help you understand the long-term ramifications of their injuries, the state places it on hold for a certain period.
The best way to find out more about the deadlines that might be relevant to your situation is to get in touch with a legal professional who is acquainted with the state's birth injury statutes. Many medical malpractice attorneys offer free case evaluations and take on these cases without charging the child's family any extra fees.
However, you should be aware that certain jurisdictions also use a statute of repose. This is the absolute filing deadline, regardless of the individual's age. The time limits that are applicable in your case might be better understood when you explore your issue with a personal injury lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hydrocephalus
The following are a few frequently-asked inquiries regarding hydrocephalus:
Can Hydrocephalus Cause Death?
Hydrocephalus can be treated, but it can turn fatal if not treated. Your child could suffer from developmental, physical, and intellectual special needs based on how far congenital hydrocephalus has advanced before diagnosis. If hydrocephalus is diagnosed early after a birth injury, the baby might suffer minimal, if any, long-term effects.
How Can I Tell If My Newborn Has Hydrocephalus?
Most parents can detect any change in the physical appearance of their child's body brought on by hydrocephalus. This can include the following:
- An abnormally large head.
- A soft spot (bulging fontanel).
- Rapid development or change of the head's form.
If you detect any of these symptoms or additional signs of hydrocephalus in your baby, it is important to consult a medical professional right away. They should arrange imaging studies to see if your baby suffers from hydrocephalus.
Who Is To Blame For Hydrocephalus?
If a healthcare professional or any other healthcare provider caused your child's birth injury or failed to detect and treat hydrocephalus, you could be able to hold them accountable by pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit or claim.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If your child needs treatment for a hydrocephalus condition, you could have grounds for seeking a birth injury claim. This would most likely be the case if a birth injury caused the illness or if there was some delay in detection and treatment. You might be able to seek damages and hold the healthcare provider or hospital accountable. Learning that infants with hydrocephalus have a good prognosis can be reassuring.
However, you still have the right to hold accountable those responsible for your baby's condition. Our team at the Phoenix Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm serves clients in and around Phoenix, Arizona. Call us today at 602-641-9589 to schedule your free consultation. We'll go over the details of your case and develop a strategy for the best course of action.