In conjunction with Brain Injury Group member firm Enable Law and Tim Jones, we look at Hydrocephalus and shed some light on this condition, it’s causes, symptoms and treatment.

What is hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain. Although cerebrospinal fluid is a natural fluid which is essential to the brain, when something occurs which stops the fluid passing from the brain into the bloodstream, raised pressure in the brain can occur which can lead to permanent damage to the brain and affect neurological function. The impact of any resulting brain injury can be extensive, and, left untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal.

Causes of hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus can be present at birth, known as congenital hydrocephalus, this type of hydrocephalus can be caused by conditions such as spina bifida or an infection the mother develops during pregnancy. It may also develop in people of all ages, because of an illness or injury such as a brain tumour, stroke or head injury, known as acquired hydrocephalus. Additionally, hydrocephalus can develop in elderly people – normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Symptoms of hydrocephalus

It is vital that hydrocephalus is diagnosed early so that the condition may be treated. Symptoms in young babies include:

  • Large head size or rapid increase in head size
  • Downward eye gaze
  • Sickness
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures

Symptoms in older children and adults include:

  • Sickness
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Problems with balance and co-ordination

Treatment of hydrocephalus

Hydrocephalus can usually be treated by the insertion of a thin tube into the brain, known as a shunt, to drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid away from the brain. Alternatively, a procedure known as an endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) may be performed which involves the surgeon making a hole in the floor of the brain to allow the cerebrospinal fluid to escape, relieving pressure.

Consequences of a failure to treat hydrocephalus

If patients are not correctly diagnosed, and treatment commenced, damage to the brain can occur. This can lead to a number of long term conditions including:

  • Learning difficulties
  • Vision problems
  • Impaired speech
  • Memory problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Problems with movement and co-ordination
  • Short attention span

It is likely children who have suffered brain damage because of hydrocephalus will require long term rehabilitation and additional support, including at school.

Bringing a clinical negligence claim for hydrocephalus

Clinical negligence claims involving hydrocephalus are extremely complex. A child may, for example, suffer a brain tumour, develop hydrocephalus and suffer a brain injury. It would be necessary to determine therefore whether the brain injury was caused by the brain tumour, by the removal of the brain tumour, or by the hydrocephalus. A claim for clinical negligence will only succeed if the brain injury has resulted from a negligent act or omission, so how the condition is picked up, monitored and treated become critical.

If negligence has occurred, bringing a claim for compensation will enable the required care, therapy, treatment and equipment to be provided to ensure their needs are fully supported and their future is secure.

Produced with Tim Jones of Enable Law

This article was produced with the help of Tim Jones, Legal Director at Brain Injury Group member firm, Enable Law. Tim has extensive experience of bringing brain injury claims, including for injuries caused by clinical negligence. He also advises Brain Injury Group on our award-winning training days for lawyers and other professionals, covering a wide range of brain injury topics, education, Court of Protection and clinical negligence.

Enable Law

Enable Law has offices in London, Southampton and throughout South West England.

What is the Brain Injury Group?

The Brain Injury Group exists to support individuals and families affected by brain injury and the health and social care professionals working in this specialist field. Our mission is to provide anyone affected by brain injury with access to advice on legal, financial and welfare benefit issues delivered by proven experts in the field who have been chosen not only for their skills and knowledge, but also for their passion and dedication to helping people.

How can Brain Injury Group help you?

If you have concerns about treatment received, we have specialist solicitors, with experience in dealing with brain injury claims arising from hydrocephalus, who can offer you initial, free, no-obligation advice.

You can contact us:

  1. Call us on 0800 612 9660 or 01737 852203
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Complete this short enquiry form and we’ll get back to you