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Published: March 6, 2023

Hydrocephalus in Pregnancy

Hydrocephalus, also known as "water on the brain," is a condition in which there is an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain. This can cause the brain to enlarge and the skull to become abnormally shaped. While hydrocephalus can occur at any age, it is most commonly diagnosed in infants. In this blog post, we will discuss hydrocephalus in pregnancy, including causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.

Why do Babies Develop Hydrocephalus?

There are several reasons why babies may develop hydrocephalus. Some babies are born with the condition, while others may develop it after birth. The most common causes of hydrocephalus in infants include:

  • Congenital: Hydrocephalus can be present at birth and caused by a malformation or defect in the brain or spinal cord. This can be due to genetic factors or problems that occur during fetal development.
  • Acquired: Hydrocephalus can also develop after birth as a result of an infection, injury, or tumor. This is known as acquired hydrocephalus.
  • Idiopathic: In some cases, the cause of hydrocephalus is unknown. This is known as idiopathic hydrocephalus.

How is Hydrocephalus Diagnosed in Pregnancy?

Hydrocephalus can be diagnosed in pregnancy by ultrasound. The ultrasound will show an enlarged head with enlarged fluid-filled spaces in the brain called ventricles which are larger than normal. It is important to note, however, that not all cases of hydrocephalus can be diagnosed during pregnancy. In some cases, it may not be detected until after birth.

Monitoring Hydrocephalus in Pregnancy

If hydrocephalus is diagnosed during pregnancy, close monitoring of the pregnancy is important. This may include regular prenatal care and ultrasound to monitor the baby's growth and development. In some cases, a specialized technique of imaging called a fetal MRI may be used to get a more detailed view of the baby's brain.

Hydrocephalus in Pregnancy

How is Hydrocephalus treated in babies?

Treatment for hydrocephalus depends on the cause of the condition and the severity of the symptoms. The most common treatments include:

  • Shunt System: A shunt is a small tube that is inserted into the brain to drain excess CSF to another part of the body, such as into the belly cavity or into the heart. A shunt is a common treatment for hydrocephalus and can help reduce the symptoms of the condition.
  • Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV): ETV is a procedure that creates a hole in the floor of the third ventricle to allow the CSF to flow naturally to the places in the head where it can be drawn back into the bloodstream in a normal way. This procedure is less invasive than a shunt and in some cases it is the preferred technique of treatment. 
  • ETV with Choroid Plexus Cauterization (CPC): CPC is an endoscopic technique to make the ETV procedure more likely to work effectively for very young babies. It includes the standard ETV operation, but adds to it the process of using electronic energy to shrivel away much of the material called choroid plexus which produces the CSF.  That reduces the amount of CSF produced which helps the ETV redirected CSF to be reabsorbed well enough.

What is the Prognosis for Babies with Hydrocephalus?

The prognosis for babies with hydrocephalus depends on the cause of the condition and the severity of the symptoms. In many cases, treatment with a shunt or other procedures can help resolve the symptoms of hydrocephalus and improve the baby's overall outcome. However, it is important to note that some babies with hydrocephalus may have long-term developmental delays or other complications.


1. How to Prevent Hydrocephalus in Pregnancy

Hydrocephalus is caused by a variety of factors, many of which are not preventable. Regular prenatal care and early detection, though, can help to minimize the risk of complications.

2. Can Fetal Hydrocephalus Go Away

In some cases, fetal hydrocephalus may resolve on its own without treatment. However, most cases require treatment to manage the symptoms and prevent complications.

3. What Causes Fluid on the Brain During Pregnancy

Fluid on the brain (hydrocephalus) during pregnancy can be caused by a variety of factors, including congenital malformations, infections, and tumors, and sometimes the cause is unknown. These conditions affect the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, resulting in an accumulation of fluid within the brain, leading to the development of hydrocephalus.

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NOTICE: This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for a patient/physician relationship.

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