Hydrocephalus is an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain that causes a buildup of pressure. It can occur in newborns and during pregnancy, and it can be detected during a 12-week scan. Learn more about where hydrocephalus typically occurs, and how to spot it on a scan.
What is Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus is a condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain that causes increased pressure. This can impede normal brain development and cause neurological impairment and physical symptoms. Hydrocephalus occurs both in newborns – typically soon after birth – and during pregnancy. It's possible to detect hydrocephalus on a 12-week scan during pregnancy, allowing for early diagnosis and interventions before the baby is born.
How to Detect Hydrocephalus on a 12-Week Scan.
If your health professionals suspect hydrocephalus based on the results of an early ultrasound scan, they may suggest a 12-week scan to further check for the presence of fluid in the brain. This scan will usually include cross-sectional images of the head and other body parts such as the stomach and abdomen. During this scan, healthcare professionals are looking for signs that there is either too much or too little CSF in the brain, which can be indicative of hydrocephalus.
Common Signs of Hydrocephalus in Fetuses.
When performing a 12-week scan, healthcare professionals may look for several common signs of hydrocephalus in fetuses. These include an enlarged ventricle; excess fluid in the brain or around the brain's ventricles; and thickening or dilatation of the connecting cavities between the ventricles. Additionally, they may also search for signs of skull deformity due to increased pressure from the hydrocephalus-related fluid buildup.
Diagnosing Hydrocephalus in Unborn Babies.
Hydrocephalus can be diagnosed in unborn babies through an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI is a scan that creates detailed images of the body’s organs and tissues. In pregnant women, it can create images of a developing baby’s brain to determine if hydrocephalus is present. After the diagnosis is made, healthcare professionals may then advise further testing or treatment to manage any associated conditions.
Long Term Effects of Having Hydrocephalus During Gestation Periods.
Babies with hydrocephalus can experience long term effects, even when the condition is treated early. These effects can include delayed development, learning disabilities, epilepsy or seizures, and cognitive problems. Early diagnosis of hydrocephalus allows healthcare professionals to properly monitor the developing baby in utero and recommend treatments or changes in lifestyle to manage any associated conditions prior to birth.