Hydrocephalus is referring to an excess build up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the ventricles of the brain that may lead to an abnormal increase pressure inside the head. This condition can be present at birth (congenital hydrocephalus) or can occur at any age (acquired hydrocephalus) as a result of some health conditions (such as brain infection and tumours) and serious trauma or bleeding to the head. Prominent enlargement in the circumference of the head is one of the visible signs of hydrocephalus among infants; aside from changes in facial features. For older children and adults, symptoms are severe headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, cognitive impairment, difficulty in balance and walking, downward gaze and overall weakness. Here are some ways on how to determine the life expectancy of patients with hydrocephalus.
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Take note of how early hydrocephalus was diagnosed. The promptness of diagnosis largely affects the success of treatment. The earlier hydrocephalus is diagnosed the better is the chance of identifying its cause. And the earlier its cause is identified, the greater is the chance of having a successful treatment that may lead to a longer lifespan.
Observe the severity of its cause. If hydrocephalus appears advance early at birth, then there is a huge possibility that it may result to physical impairments and may have a shorter span of life if damage to the brain is that serious. If it is not that severe at birth, the infant’s lifespan may probably be close to normal, but can only be possible if proper treatment is applied.
Notice the timeliness and effectiveness of treatment. Symptoms of hydrocephalus usually get worse over time if they are left untreated. So the earlier hydrocephalus is managed, the greater the possibility of having a promising outcome. Administration of shunt system is one of the ways of treating hydrocephalus. This helpful method diverts the flow of CSF away from the brain, keeping the intracranial pressure within normal limits. Once this shunt is administered, it will help prolong the life expectancy of the patient. It usually lasts for about 10 years if its function appears to be well established. But in some cases it will eventually fail and may only last for about 5 minutes. Application of another type of treatments known as the endoscopic third ventriculostomy can also be recommended for hydrocephalus. It involves creating a small hole in the floor of the third ventricle to create a new passage way for the CSF to flow. The reaction of patients against this type of treatment varies. Some may improve dramatically, while others cases may become severe after a few months.
Note if serious complications starts to develop. This is considered an emergency. Patients with shunt system may experience complications from it including malfunction, infection, or obstruction. In most cases these problems can be managed successfully. But if taken for granted, this may lead to very serious and life-threatening situations that may shorten the life of the patient. In cases where complications like respiratory arrest or haemorrhage is present, the prospect of recovery is dependent to the severity of the injury rather than the hydrocephalus itself. If treatment is successful and the brain appears to be functioning normally, then the patient will have a longer lifespan, compared to those with severely damaged brain.
Tips and warnings
- If your child or relative is suffering from hydrocephalus, make sure that constant visit to the doctor is done to update his/her condition.
- If complications regarding shunt system starts to develop, bring the patient to the doctor right away. Early management of the problem provides a better chance of recovery.