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Hydrocephalus: Causes, Characteristics, and Therapy Options

Sep 01st, 2023 | by Eabha Barry

Eabha Barry

September 01st, 2023

What is Hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is a medical condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain. This accumulation of fluid can lead to an increase in pressure inside the skull, which can cause damage to the brain tissue if left untreated. In infants, it is often present at birth or develops shortly after. The exact prevalence of hydrocephalus is not well documented, but it is estimated to affect around 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 births in the United States.

What is the Cause of Hydrocephalus?

The most common causes of hydrocephalus include obstruction, impaired absorption, overproduction of CSF congenital abnormalities or head trauma.

  • Obstruction is when the flow of CSF within the brain is blocked, it can lead to accumulation and hydrocephalus. This obstruction can be caused by tumors, cysts, infections, or congenital abnormalities.
  • Impaired absorption: In some cases the body may have difficulty absorbing CSF properly, leading to its accumulation in the brain. This can be due to conditions such as meningitis or a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  • Overproduction of CSF: Sometimes the brain may produce an excessive amount of CSF, which can overwhelm the normal drainage system and result in hydrocephalus.
  • Congenital abnormalities: Some individuals may be born with structural defects that cause hydrocephalus, such as aqueduct stenosis or Arnold-Chiari malformation.
  • Head trauma: Severe brain injuries can lead to bleeding within the brain or disruption of the normal CSF flow, resulting in hydrocephalus.

What Are Some Characteristics in Children With Hydrocephalus?

The condition can present with various symptoms and severity depending on the cause and how quickly it develops. The severity of hydrocephalus can also vary, ranging from mild to severe cases. Severe cases may lead to more significant symptoms and complications, while milder cases may have subtle or intermittent symptoms.

Presentation of Hydrocephalus in Children May Include:

  • Enlarged head size (macrocephaly)
  • Bulging fontanelle (soft spot on a baby’s head)
  • Persistent headaches or vomiting
  • Changes in vision or eye movements
  • Poor coordination or balance
  • Irritability or changes in behaviour
  • Developmental delays
  • Seizures

What Are Some Treatment Options for Hydrocephalus?

It’s important for children with suspected hydrocephalus to be evaluated promptly by a healthcare provider for diagnosis and appropriate management. Treatment may involve surgical intervention such as shunt placement to help drain excess CSF and relieve pressure on the brain. Regular monitoring and follow-up care are essential to ensure optimal outcomes for children with hydrocephalus. Treatment options for hydrocephalus in a paediatric clinic may involve a multidisciplinary approach involving occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech therapists to address cognitive, motor, and communication challenges. It is essential for these therapists to collaborate closely to create an individualised treatment plan tailored to the child’s specific needs and challenges related to hydrocephalus. Regular monitoring and adjustments to the therapy plan may be necessary to ensure optimal outcomes for the child.

About the Author

Eabha (pronounced Ava) is an Occupational Therapist at NAPA Centre Syndey. Known for her enthusiasm, Eabha is passionate about making therapy sessions enjoyable for children. She believes that incorporating fun into the sessions not only helps engage the children but also enhances their progress. In addition to her professional pursuits, Eabha enjoys exploring and immersing herself in the vibrant city of Sydney. Eabha can be found unwinding by taking long walks along the beach, listening to engaging podcasts, and practising yoga..

About NAPA Centre 

Learn more about hydrocephalus therapy at world-renowned NAPA Centre paediatric therapy clinics.NAPA specialises in working with children with physical and neurological delays. In addition to working with children with more common diagnoses such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, NAPA has a special interest and expertise with children with rare, multiple and complex conditions. NAPA Centre’s Intensive Model of Therapy (IMOT) is world-renowned, and one of the leading clinics in Australia for paediatric therapy programs with a large multi-discliplinary team of Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Speech Therapists all working together. Families routinely travel from all parts of Sydney, the NSW region, from across Australia and even from the Australasian region to access NAPA’s unique and effective programs for their children.

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