What is the treatment for hydrocephalus?
Specific treatment for hydrocephalus will be determined by your baby's doctor based on:
Your baby's gestational age, overall health, and medical history
The extent of the condition
The type or cause of condition
Your baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the condition
Your opinion or preference
The goal of treatment is to reduce the pressure in the baby's head and to properly drain the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). Occasionally, medications or procedures to draw off the extra CSF may be used.
Surgery may be needed for some cases of hydrocephalus. Surgery usually involves placing a mechanical shunting device into the baby's head to help drain the extra CSF from the brain and redirect the extra fluid to another part of the body to be absorbed. A common type of shunt is the ventriculoperitoneal shunt. This directs the fluid into the abdominal cavity.
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The shunt consists of three parts:
A tube that's placed inside the ventricular space
A reservoir and valve to control the flow of CSF
Tubing that's directed under the skin to the abdomen, or less commonly to the heart or lung area
The shunt redirects the CSF out of the head through the tubing to a location elsewhere in the body where it can absorbed. The shunt usually runs behind the ear and the tubing is tunneled under the skin to the area of the abdomen, heart, or lung. Your baby's doctor will determine the drainage location based on your baby's condition, age, and other factors. The abdomen is generally the first choice.
Potential complications from the shunts or surgery can include:
These symptoms require prompt medical evaluation. Following surgery, you'll receive instructions on how to care for your baby at home and information about signs or symptoms requiring immediate medical attention.
Hydrocephalus can affect the brain and a baby's development. The extent of the problem is dependent on the severity of the hydrocephalus, and the presence of brain or other organ system problems.
The key to treating hydrocephalus is early detection, proper treatment, and prevention of infection. A baby with hydrocephalus requires frequent medical evaluations to ensure proper shunt function. The medical team works closely with the family to provide education and guidance as the baby grows and develops.
Genetic counseling may be recommended by the baby's doctor to discuss the risk for recurrence in future pregnancies, as well as prenatal testing for hydrocephalus.