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What is Hydrocephalus?

“Devon” is currently a waiting child in the Ethiopia program whose primary special need is hydrocephalus. Knowing “Devon” will need a special family that is resourced and prepared for their needs; we’d like to educate families on hydrocephalus as we advocate for their adoptions.

You can view “Devon's” infomation on our Waiting Child pages. You may quickly and easily request the password on this same site. After logging-in you can search by the country of Ethiopia to view more information on Devon.

The name hydrocephalus is derived from the Greek words “hydro” meaning water and “cephalus” meaning head. So, it is a condition where there is excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain. This “fluid” is cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) — a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The pressure of the fluid against the brain tissue is what causes hydrocephalus.

There are two types of hydrocephalus:

  • Congenital: Present at birth, caused by events during fetal development, or genetic abnormalities.
  • Acquired: Develops during birth or afterward. This type can affect individuals of all ages and causes may include injury or disease.

What causes Hydrocephalus?

The causes are still not well understood. Possible causes include:

– Inherited genetic abnormalities

– Developmental disorders (such as those associated with spina bifida)

– Complications of premature birth

– Meningitis

– Tumors

– Traumatic head injury

What are the symptoms of Hydrocephalus?

In babies, the clear indication of hydrocephalus is a rapid increase in head circumference or an unusually large head. (The infant skull can expand to allow for the spinal fluid because the joints that connect the skull haven’t closed yet.) They may also experience vomiting, fatigue, irritability, deviation of the eyes and seizures.

What are the treatment options for children with Hydrocephalus?

The most common treatment is a shunt system. The shunt is a plastic tub that is surgically inserted and diverts the flow of spinal fluid to another area of the body where it can be absorbed. But there are lots of potential complications with shunt systems (mechanical failure, infections, obstructions, overdraining or underdraining.) This is one of the main reasons we are advocating for “Devon” to be matched with a family as soon as possible, their need requires regular and consistent follow-up and there are many resources available for hydrocephalus within the United States.

What is the outlook for children with Hydrocephalus?

The most critical piece that affects the outlook for a child with hydrocephalus is early treatment by a team of medical professionals. If this is the case, children can benefit from therapies and interventions and go on to lead lives with few limitations. But hydrocephalus can harm cognitive and physical development and left untreated, progressive hydrocephalus can be fatal.

What complicates the outlook is that many children with hydrocephalus also have other special needs. Hydrocephalus can cause motor disabilities due to the brain damage that results. You will note this is the case for Andrew and Devon.

Would you join with us as we pray and advocate for “Devon” to be matched with a forever family? 

The following organizations provided information for this post and support children with Hydrocephalus:

Hydrocephalus Association

National Hydrocephalus Foundation


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