Babies who suffer from a grade 3–4 cerebral haemorrhage may develop hydrocephalus. This is because the fluid that is constantly forming in the brain cannot drain away normally because one of the ventricles is blocked. The fluid accumulates in the ventricles which then begin to expand like balloons and push the brain tissue outwards. This means that the head grows faster than expected and the circumference of the head increases. The lay person's term for hydrocephalus is "water in the brain".

Hydrocephalus is detected by ultrasound examinations of the brain. The treatment consists of diverting the fluid to reduce the pressure on the brain. In less complicated cases of hydrocephalus, this is done by draining fluid from the spinal cord (lumbar puncture). If this does not rectify the situation, a reservoir is surgically inserted, the tip of which is located in one of the brain's ventricles with a receptacle under the skin to enable regular drainage. If necessary, the reservoir is then replaced with a shunt, which remains in situ, that funnels the fluid to the abdominal cavity via a tube.

Treatment ensures that high pressure does not form in the brain, thereby reducing the risk of injury that could affect the baby's neurological development.

Text: Kajsa Bohlin Blennow