Fetal hydrocephalus care in Denver, Colorado

Fetal hydrocephalus is an excess accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and it is especially important to address to ensure the health of both mother and baby. The Center for Maternal/Fetal Health  at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (RMHC at P/SL) in Denver is home to pediatric and neonatal specialists with years of experience treating fetal hydrocephalus. Our hospital campus is truly a campus like no other. We are able to provide medical care for high-risk moms and babies all under the same roof.

To find a specialist experienced with hydrocephalus, please call our program care coordinator at (720) 754-7642 .
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children - Center for Maternal/Fetal Health

Fetal hydrocephalus causes

Hydrocephalus is caused by the widening of spaces in the brain (ventricles). Excess cerebrospinal fluid can lead to harmful pressure on the brain tissue.

When our Denver-area specialists diagnose hydrocephalus, many parents ask if hydrocephalus is hereditary or caused by external factors. Fetal hydrocephalus can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • Congenital reasons
  • Events that occur during fetal development
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Consequences of a Dandy-Walker syndrome

Fetal hydrocephalus diagnosis

While hydrocephalus is most often diagnosed after birth, when a child or adult presents neurological symptoms, fetal hydrocephalus can be diagnosed with an ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) scan.

Because your child’s brain development is absolutely crucial in the womb, your RMHC specialist may perform a number of tests to confirm a hydrocephalus diagnosis by identifying enlarged ventricles through which CSF is flowing.

Hydrocephalus treatment

Determining the proper fetal hydrocephalus treatment depends on your child’s specific type of hydrocephalus. During pregnancy, the main treatment method for fetal hydrocephalus is careful observation. Your maternal-fetal physician in Denver will closely monitor your baby for signs of distress, and if distress is detected, he or she will talk with you about an early delivery.

After your baby is born, we will care for him or her our Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit  (NICU). Our Level IV NICU provides the highest level of care available and is the largest NICU in the region. Doctors use diagnostic tests and imaging studies to determine which hydrocephalus treatments to pursue. If an excess amount of CSF is still present after birth, doctors may consider surgically inserting a shunt system to help drain the CSF to another part of the body.

A shunt procedure involves inserting a flexible plastic tube by way of catheter into the ventricle in the brain or outside the spinal cord. A decreased amount of CSF in the brain post-shunt insertion can then allow proper brain development following fetal hydrocephalus.

Life after fetal hydrocephalus

Because a prenatal baby’s brain and skull are still developing, the baby can handle a certain amount of CSF build-up without fetal hydrocephalus becoming a concern. However, if it continues, untreated fetal hydrocephalus can cause irreversible brain damage. This is why calculated, proper treatment is absolutely essential.

Impaired cognitive and physical development is a possibility in children with fetal hydrocephalus, so neurological care  and follow-up is important throughout childhood. For many children with fetal hydrocephalus, diligent rehabilitation therapies  throughout childhood can have significant benefits to long-term prognosis.

Each child is unique, but early diagnosis and proper treatment can drastically improve the chances of a proper recovery after fetal hydrocephalus.