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Hydrocephalus in Newborns: Care Instructions


Hydrocephalus means that too much fluid is building up inside your baby's brain. This extra fluid can increase pressure on the brain. It can make your baby's head look larger than normal and make the soft spots on your baby's head feel firm or bulge out.

Early treatment for your newborn can help protect the brain from long-term injury.

The goal of treatment is to lower the pressure on the brain by getting rid of the extra fluid. There are two common ways to do that:

  • The doctor may place a flexible tube, called a shunt, in your baby's brain. The shunt carries the extra fluid away from the brain to another part of your baby's body, such as the belly or heart. Your baby's body can take in the extra fluid without harm.
  • The doctor may perform a surgery called ETV (endoscopic third ventriculostomy). In ETV, the doctor makes a small hole in a deep part of your baby's brain. The hole allows the extra fluid to flow out of the brain and into the body, where it can be taken in without harm.

Follow-up care is a key part of your baby's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your baby is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your baby's test results and keep a list of the medicines your baby takes.

How can you care for your baby at home?

Watch for possible problems as your baby's brain develops. These could include delayed learning, problems with motor skills, and speech problems. Talk to your doctor about new problems or changes you see. Take care of yourself. Get enough rest, eat well, and exercise. Ask your doctor where to find help and support.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your baby may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your baby passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your baby has a seizure that does not go away.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby has signs that fluid is building up in the brain. Signs include:
    • Extreme fussiness or crying that can't be comforted.
    • Being much less alert than usual.
    • Not eating much.
    • Sleeping a lot.
    • Vomiting.
    • Fever.

Watch closely for changes in your baby's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any concerns.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.