Following birth, it is normal for the circumference of a baby to increase in size. On average, a baby’s head circumference will increase around 0.78 inches or two centimeters per month between birth and three months. The growth slows between four and six months to around 0.39 inches per month or l centimeter. However, all babies are different, so you shouldn’t be overly concerned if your baby’s head is growing in size a little bit faster than expected.
However, if there is rapid growth combined with neurological symptoms, you should talk to your pediatrician about what you’ve observed. Your doctor might then try to determine whether your baby has hydrocephalus or another condition prompting rapid growth and other symptoms. Hydrocephalus occurs when the fluids inside of the baby’s skull build up and cause pressure and brain swelling. Here is some information about hydrocephalus and the signs you should watch for from the Philadelphia birth injury attorneys at Raynes & Lawn.
Symptoms of Hydrocephalus
If your baby has undergone a rapid increase in the size of their head or skull, it could be hydrocephalus if you also observe one or more of the following signs:
When there is a rapid increase in the size of a baby’s head or skull it may be hydrocephaly if one or more of the following symptoms are also seen:
- Bulging soft spot
- Tense soft spot
- Bulging eyes
- Upward gaze
- Downward gaze
- Overly large pupils
- Constantly cross-eyed
- Persistent vomiting
- A high-pitched, shrill cry
How Hydrocephalus Can Occur
The ventricles of the brain contain cerebrospinal fluid which helps to cushion the spinal cord and brain by flowing around them. Cerebrospinal fluid also transports nutrients to the brain and carries away waste. It is subsequently absorbed into the bloodstream, and fresh cerebrospinal fluid will then take its place. Hydrocephalus can occur if the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is blocked.
It can also happen if the bloodstream doesn’t absorb enough cerebrospinal fluid. Some of the causes of hydrocephalus include the following:
- Spina bifida – Condition in which the spinal cord doesn’t fully develop
- Premature birth complications
- In utero infection
- Aqueductal stenosis or a blockage of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid between the ventricles caused by infection during pregnancy
- Bleeding in the brain caused by a brain injury or stroke
- Brain tumor
- Brain infection
Diagosis and Treatment of Hydrocephalus
Each time you take your baby to the pediatrician’s office, their head will be measured and tracked. If your doctor notices that your baby’s head is rapidly increasing in size, and your baby also has one or more of the previously listed symptoms, they might examine your baby’s scalp to see if the veins appear stretched or swollen. The doctor might also lightly tap on the skull to listen for a difference that could indicate a buildup of fluid under the skull. If hydrocephalus is suspected, your doctor might order a computerized tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, x-ray, or another test to detect whether there is a problem.
Some of the ways that doctors diagnose hydrocephalus include the following:
- Monitoring increases in head circumference
- Asking about symptoms
- Performing an examination of the baby’s head and scalp
- Ordering imaging studies
If your baby is diagnosed with hydrocephalus, your doctor will focus on reducing the fluid and pressure. The doctor might prescribe a medication such as Mannitol or Diamox until they can determine what is causing your baby’s hydrocephalus. Surgery might be performed to remove a mass or cyst that might be blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. In other cases, a doctor might insert a shunt to redirect excess cerebrospinal fluid to a different bodily area where it can be absorbed.
One type of surgery that might be performed is ventriculoperitoneal shunt surgery. This procedure involves placing a tube from the ventricles to the baby’s peritoneal cavity, which is the area in the abdomen where the stomach and bowels are located. The tube will be placed under the skin inside of the body. The excess cerebrospinal fluid will then be absorbed by the blood. The shunt will need to be replaced as a child grows and requires a larger shunt or if the shunt becomes infected or stops working.
Another procedure that might be used is called an endoscopic third ventriculostomy. In this surgery, a tiny hole will be made at the base of the ventricle, allowing the excess fluid to drain and be absorbed by the blood. Children with hydrocephalus might also need intervention for associated developmental delays, including occupational therapy, physical therapy, and an early intervention program.
Complications if Hydrocephalus Is Not Caught Early
If your doctor fails to identify and treat hydrocephalus early, the following complications can occur:
- Developmental delays
- Brain herniation
- Brain damage
Talk to Raynes & Lawn
If there was a delay in the diagnosis of your child’s hydrocephalus, resulting in complications and brain injuries, you should reach out to the Philadelphia birth injury attorneys at Rayens & Lawn. Call us today for a free case evaluation at 1-800-535-1797.
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