The impact and causes of fetal hydrocephalus, and legal options for parents
Having a baby is an exciting and challenging life experience. The average pregnancy doctor, obstetrician or midwife understands the importance of closely monitoring a pregnant woman’s health throughout the approximately 9 months leading to, during and following the birth of her child.
In certain circumstances, specialized treatment or emergency care may be necessary to protect the safety of a mother and her infant. Sadly, some mothers and babies suffer serious birth injuries due to medical negligence, including many infants who have developed acquired hydrocephalus because of traumatic birth incidents.
Types of hydrocephalus in babies
Hydrocephalus is a medical condition that is often referred to as “water on the brain.”
There are basically 2 types of hydrocephalus: congenital or acquired. If a baby develops the condition because of a prenatal infection or abnormal brain development in the womb, symptoms of hydrocephalus might be present at birth, thus categorized as a congenital condition.
If, however, hydrocephalus develops during delivery or after birth, it would be considered an acquired condition. There are numerous factors that could cause either congenital or acquired hydrocephalus.
One of many reasons why a pregnant woman should stay closely connected to her medical team is so that her doctor or midwife can spot signs of trouble and determine the best course of action to help address or resolve a specific issue.
Causes of hydrocephalus in newborns
Abnormal brain development, which can be caused by any number of issues, sometimes results in hydrocephalus in an infant. Enterovirus infections, as well as various bacterial or parasitic illnesses, may also cause congenital hydrocephalus, the symptoms of which might be noticed by an obstetrician or midwife during pregnancy.
If an infant suffers a hydrocephalus birth injury, it is important for parents to investigate to determine what or who may have caused it to happen. The most common types of factors that result in such birth injuries include incorrect use of forceps or vacuum during delivery.
Another situation that often results in hydrocephalus is failure to perform a C-section when needed. Unless a mother has a background in obstetrics, she may not necessarily recognize signs of fetal or maternal distress. Instead, mothers rely on their medical team to know when there’s a problem, as well as to know when a C-section would be the safest form of delivery. Failing to perform a C-section when needed can lead to a traumatic birth with bleeding on an infant’s brain.
Signs and symptoms of hydrocephalus in infants
Every baby is born with a soft spot on top of his or her head. This area of the skull is called the “fontanelle,” and it is not fully formed at birth. The softness of the fontanelle helps an infant fit through the birth canal. If a child’s fontanelle appears to be bulging, it is a definite cause for concern and might be a clinical symptom of hydrocephalus.
Medical teams working in labor and delivery are trained to closely observe a newborn infant for signs of distress. If a baby seems lethargic (overly tired and lacking normal movements), is vomiting or develops seizures, the attending physician will want to rule out hydrocephalus as a possible cause of the symptoms.
An incurable but treatable condition
Raising a child with hydrocephalus requires a tremendous amount of effort for parents and medical teams. A pediatric neurosurgeon would typically play a key role in treating a child who has suffered a hydrocephalus birth injury.
The cause of “water on the brain” is that a child who has been diagnosed with hydrocephalus has a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that is causing pressure on his or her brain. A pediatric neurosurgeon can discuss treatment options to alleviate that pressure, which might include draining the CSF and, perhaps, inserting a ventriculoperitoneal shunt.
There are several other treatment options often available to help a child with hydrocephalus. The type of treatment recommended would be based on several factors, including the child’s age, as well as the severity of his or her condition.
In some cases, a child with this condition can live a full life after receiving proper treatment in a timely manner. In other cases, a child might experience permanent cognitive and physical disabilities. Sadly, some children do not survive hydrocephalus.
Seeking restitution for a child who suffered a birth injury
Parents have a right to expect all members of a medical team who are providing care and treatment during pregnancy, labor and delivery, as well as during postpartum, to fully adhere to stringent protocol and accepted standards of care that are in place to help keep mothers and infants safe.
If a birth injury occurs because of medical negligence, parents may decide to take legal action on an infant’s behalf by filing a birth injury malpractice or medical malpractice claim in a civil court to seek compensation for damages. Court-awarded financial recovery is often used to help pay medical bills and to cover expenses associated with specialized care a child with hydrocephalus needs to survive.
If you believe that your infant’s birth injury was caused by medical negligence, we recommend meeting with experienced birth injury attorney Laura Brown right away so that she can start gathering evidence to show that negligence played a role and was a direct cause of damages.
- Baby’s Skull Not Fused at Birth
- Birth Injury from Premature Delivery
- Brachial Plexus Nerves & Erb’s Palsy
- Caput Succedaneum and Cephalohematoma
- Cerebral Palsy
- Cesarean Section & Birth Injury
- Developmental Delays
- Facial Paralysis
- Fetal Intolerance to Labor
- Medication Side Effects
- Jaundice (Kernicterus)
- Medical Errors