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Is Your Baby’s Head Normal Or Should You Worry It Is Hydrocephaly?

by The Beasley Firm  |  January 20, 2018  |  ,

Understanding Normal Baby Head Size and Risk of 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.

If you believe your child is suffering from hydrocephaly and that medical professionals might be involved in causing the injury or giving a delayed diagnosis, contact The Beasley Firm for a free consultation. We can discuss your situation and help you understand your legal options.

When Should You Be Concerned About Your Baby’s Head Size?

Whether it is your first child or your third, any abnormalities in your infant’s development can be concerning. It is essential to know that an infant will not be diagnosed with macrocephaly or a large head unless their head circumference is larger than 97% of children the same age and sex.

Infants are notoriously fidgety during exams, so getting an accurate measurement can be difficult. Doctors and nurses should measure a child’s head circumference twice if it appears abnormal. It is crucial, however, that signs of rapid head growth are taken seriously. Early diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause can be critical.

What Is the Average Head Circumference Growth Per Month?

According to studies, head circumference increases by approximately 2 cm per month from 0 to 3 months of age and 1 cm per month from 3 to 6 months of age. During the next 6 months, head circumference typically increases by around 0.5 cm each month. 

After a child turns one year old, the circumference increase is around 1 cm per 6 months until the age of 3. Finally, between the ages of 3 to 5, a child’s head circumference grows an average of 1 cm per year.

When Does Head Circumference Stop Growing?

The head experiences rapid growth during the first year of life. On average, a child’s head circumference increases by 12 cm by age 1. After 12 months, the growth slows substantially, with routine measurements ending at around age 3.  

If you are concerned about the size of your child’s head, you need to speak to their pediatrician. While some causes of macrocephaly are harmless, others are severe. Conditions such as hydrocephalus can prove fatal if left untreated. A doctor should take any concerns about your child’s development seriously, conducting the necessary examinations to determine the cause of the larger-than-normal head circumference.

What Is Hydrocephaly?

Hydrocephaly or hydrocephalus brain injury is a buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling. It is also referred to as “water on the brain.”

New parents holding their baby

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 sunsetting eyes – eyes looking down
  • Upward gaze – eyes looking up
  • Constantly crossed-eyed
  • Very large pupils
  • Fussiness
  • High pitched or shrill cry
  • Persistent vomiting

What Causes Hydrocephaly?

The causes of hydrocephalus are not well understood. According to Stanford Medicine, the condition occurs in one out of 500 births. Hydrocephalus can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired. It may be genetic or linked to conditions such as spina bifida. 

Common causes of hydrocephaly include:

  • Birth injury
  • Infections
  • Tumors
  • Trauma during delivery
  • Premature birth
  • Bleeding inside the brain
  • Abnormal blood vessel formation
  • Congenital disease (usually developing during the third trimester of pregnancy)

Hydrocephalus does not resolve on its own. Early detection of the condition and proper treatment are key. If your child’s hydrocephalus was not detected or treated, you might be entitled to compensation. Contact our office to discuss your legal options. 

How Can Medical Negligence Cause Hydrocephaly?

Sadly, sometimes medical error and doctor malpractice can lead to a child suffering from hydrocephaly. The most common cause of medical negligence leading to hydrocephaly is trauma to the head during delivery. The following examples of medical error might result in hydrocephaly:

  • Incorrect use of forceps or vacuum during delivery
  • Excessive mechanical force during delivery
  • Failure to perform a C-section when needed
  • Untreated respiratory distress syndrome
  • Improper use of pitocin drug during labor

At The Beasley Firm our experienced birth injury lawyers are well-equipped with a team of nurses and doctors who can evaluate the circumstances of your child’s birth and help determine if negligence might have taken place.

How Is Hydrocephaly Diagnosed?

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 not diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, it could lead to several complications/injuries, including:

  • Brain damage
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Brain herniation
  • Hemiparesis
  • Developmental delays

How Is Hydrocephaly Treated?

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.

Was There A Delay in Diagnosis of Hydrocephaly for Your Child?

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 team at The Beasley Firm has 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 The Beasley Firm for a strictly confidential and free consultation.

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