A life threatening and debilitating condition affecting children most, for which there is no cure.

A baby suffering from Hydrocephalus
A baby suffering from Hydrocephalus

Omolola was about nine month old when she started walking. All of a sudden she couldn’t walk again. The parents took her to the hospital and she was given polio vaccination because it was suspected that her problem was a polio infection. After some months, her head started to increase and she became very weak. Other symptoms that manifested are irritability, loss of activity and appetite, and vomiting. But it was late before she was diagnosed of hydrocephalus. Though a surgery was performed on her but she didn’t survive it. “She was bedridden battling with the disease for seven years before she died” her mother said sadly.

Hydrocephalus is a deadly disease which if not detected and treated early can lead to death of the child. It is the accumulation of water within the bone covering the head. It is also a disorder of the central nervous system. It is usually the excessive accumulation of the Cerebrospinal Fluid, CSF, in the brain which causes pressure inside the skull and brain tissue leading to progressive enlargement of the head in infant. The excessive accumulation of CSF results in an abnormal widening of spaces in the brain ventricles which creates potentially harmful pressure on the tissue of the brain. CSF builds up in the central nervous system causing the soft spot of the skull to bulge and the head larger than expected.

“Hydrocephalus is a congenital issue. It is caused by malformation in uterus which manifest when the baby is born” says a Public Health Physician, Dr. Akintomide Duyile.

The Cerebrospinal Fluid, CSF, plays an important role in the development of hydrocephalus in infant. It is a clear coulouress liquids originating from inside the bodies of human found in the brain and spine. It acts as a cushion for the brain’s cortex providing basic mechanical and immunological protection to the brain inside the skull, serves a vital function in the flow of blood between the cranium and spine and also compensate for changes in the amount of blood within the brain. CSF constitutes the content of the ventricles, cisterns and sulci – closed spaces that serve as reservoirs – of the brain as well as the central canal of the spinal cord. It circulates in the protective membrane and delicate innermost layer of the membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system.

Hydrocephalus may be caused by impaired, reabsorption or excessive CSF production. It may result from inherited genetic abnormalities, developmental disorders, complications of premature birth such as intraventricular haemorrhage, diseases such as meningitis, tumours, traumatic head injury or blockage of the CSF from the ventricles to the spaces that serve as reservoirs.

The most noticeable symptoms of hydrocephalus are the rapid increase in head size of the child. However, the symptoms varies as it progress in the child which include increase in the size of head in relation to the body, irritability, loss of activity and appetite, vomiting, sleepiness, motion and visual problems, weak movement, tremulous arm and eyes gaze down.

“The symptoms depends on the person involve as it affect adult too but is most common in infant” Dr. Akintomide added.

Also there is communicating, non-communicating, obstructive and normal pressure hydrocephalus.

According to research, the number of people who develop hydrocephalus or who are currently living with it is difficult to establish since the condition occurs in children and can later develop later in life. Though the common phenomenon is infants born with spinal bifida.

Through cross sections of respondents, it was discovered that parent are not aware of the deadly disease – hydrocephalus – leading to late diagnosis and treatment.

Hydrocephalus is diagnosed through clinical neurological evaluation and using cranial imaging techniques such as ultrasonography, pressure monitoring techniques, Computed Tomograpghy (CT), or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Each technique is used according to individual’s age, clinical presentation and suspected abnormalities of the brain.

“Hydrocephalus is treated by surgical intervention known as shunt to divert the flow of CSF to other part of the body” Dr. Akintomide says.

Findings through the use of shut by neurosurgeon has shown that it is not 100% treatment for hydrocephalus as complications occur which include infections and mechanical failure. It can also lead to overdraning or underdraning.

Meanwhile, the use of folic acid during pregnancy has been implored by a neurosurgeon, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Dr. Bankole Femi, in a programme, said pregnant women should always go for anti-natal for regular prescription of folic acid to avoid infections in their babies head before birth. He also urge parent to always take their child to a Paediatric for medical checkups and early detection of fluid in the head for there is no cure for hydrocephalus yet.



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