Hydrocephalus comes from the Latin word meaning water on the brain and occurs in 4 in every 5 babies born with Spina Bifida and usually occurs within the first 6 months of life. In 96% of babies with Spina Bifida, the brain is also positioned further down into the upper spinal column than it should be. This change in position is part of a condition called the Chiari II malformation.
The brain tissue displaced into the upper spinal canal blocks the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, also known as CSF. The spinal fluid that normally circulates through the brain is unable to drain normally and collects in the ventricles, causing pressure on the brain. This makes a baby’s head grow more rapidly than normal. Left untreated, hydrocephalus can cause brain damage.
All babies born with Spina Bifida undergo either an ultrasound or CT scan of their head after birth so that the level of hydrocephalus and the presence and severity of Chiari II malformation can be monitored closely. Your baby’s head circumference will be measured on a regular basis.
If required, a plastic tube (called a shunt) will be inserted under the skin from the ventricles to either the abdominal cavity or the heart to release pressure on the brain.