Is Your Baby's Head Size, Growth Or Head Circumference Normal Or Should You Worry Is It Hydrocephaly?

From birth to 3 months of age the average increase in your baby's head circumference is usually 2 cm or .78 inches each month. From 4 to 6 months of age, the head circumference or head growth slows to about 1 cm per month. Now, these are just guidelines and every baby is different so do not become concerned if your baby's head is growing a little faster than normal. However, if the head circumference is rapidly growing and there are other neurological signs your child is exhibiting, the pediatrician should be questioning if there is an underlying pathology or hydrocephalus that could be causing the rapid increase in your newborn's head size. Hydrocephaly or hydrocephalus is a buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling. It is also referred to as "water on the brain."

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 or tense fontanel or soft spot
  • Bulging eyes
  • Downward gaze or sun setting eyes - eyes looking down
  • Upward gaze - eyes looking up
  • Constantly crossed-eyed
  • Very large pupils
  • Fussiness
  • High pitched or shrill cry
  • Persistent vomiting

If a pediatrician or nurse practitioner notices a rapid increase in your baby's head circumference in addition to the above symptoms they may also check to see if the veins on your baby's scalp are swollen or stretched. They may also tap lightly on your baby's skull to see if they hear a difference indicating there may be fluid under the skull. If the doctor or nurse practitioner suspects hydrocephaly they may order a CT scan of the brain, x-ray, ultrasound or other studies to detect if there is a problem.

If hydrocephaly is diagnosed, the primary treatment is aimed at reducing the amount of fluid or pressure in the skull or on the brain. Medications such as Diamox or Mannitol may be used until it is determined what is causing the hydrocephalus. The goal of treatment is to reduce or prevent brain damage by improving the flow of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). Surgery may be performed to remove a cyst or mass that could be blocking the flow of the CSF. Other times, a shunt may be placed to redirect the CSF fluid to another area of the body such as the stomach where it can be absorbed.

If hydrocephalyis not diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, it could lead to brain damage, seizures, stroke, brain herniation, hemiparesis and developmental delays.

If you believe there was a delay in diagnosing your child's hydrocephalus you may be eligible for compensation. Since 1958, the experienced medical malpractice teams here at the Philadelphia Beasley Law Firm have been successfully representing victims of medical negligence. To date, we have had over $2 billion awarded on behalf of our injured clients. We currently have on staff a nurse attorney and nurse who have worked in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and pediatric intensive care units (PICU) caring for infants and children who developed hydrocephaly and required surgery or shunt placement. Please feel free to contact one of our experienced lawyers, doctors or nurses at 1.888.823.5291 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.


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