September is hydrocephalus awareness month

06 September 2023

Hydrocephalus affects millions of people globally and yet is a relatively unknown condition. 

Shoosmiths’ serious injury team’s specialist medical negligence and serious injury solicitors have experience in bringing claims for compensation for a wide range of brain injuries. Brain injuries relating to hydrocephalus can have a significant impact on those who suffer them, often causing life changing injuries. 

What is hydrocephalus?

According to the NHS website, hydrocephalus is defined as a build-up of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) on the brain. The excess fluid puts pressure on the brain which can damage it. Sadly, if left untreated, hydrocephalus can be fatal. 

Why does it happen?

There are two main types of hydrocephalus:

  1. Congenital hydrocephalus – where the condition is present at birth. This can be due to several reasons, such as spinal bifida or maternal infection.   
  2. Acquired hydrocephalus – where the condition develops after birth. This can be due to a head injury caused by an accident, for example, or a medical condition such as a brain tumour. 

What are the symptoms of hydrocephalus?

The condition can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on the type of hydrocephalus, these can include blurred vision, headache, being sick, difficulty walking and sleepiness.

How is it treated? 

Usually, the excess CSF fluid on the brain is diverted to another part of the body from the brain, through a thin tube called a ‘shunt’. The CSF fluid usually can be safely absorbed into the body either in the abdomen, lung, or heart. The main three types of shunt are listed below.  

  • A ventriculo peritoneal (VP) shunt is a tube from the brain which drains fluid into the peritoneal cavity (in your abdomen). 
  • A ventriculo pleural (V pleural) shunt drains fluid from the brain into part of the lung. 
  • A ventriculo atrial (VA) shunt drains fluid from the brain into part of the heart. 

Many people with hydrocephalus live normal lives with a shunt in place, and are active, can work and have a family.

Some people are suitable for an Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV). This is an operation on the brain in which a hole is made in the skull and the brain where fluid is drained. Even with surgery, there is a risk of a blockage in the future which will cause the fluid to return. 

What are hydrocephalus claims?

There are many potential examples where hydrocephalus, and treatment of it, can give rise to a claim for compensation. The following are examples:

  1. Failure to diagnose or delay in diagnosis of hydrocephalus – a failure to promptly diagnose and treat hydrocephalus can result in further significant brain damage and, sadly, sometimes death. 
  2. Mismanagement of a shunt – this can include failure to identify a blocked or infected shunt, or to consider whether the current shunt is no longer working and/or to divert the CSF to another part of the body. 
  3. Accidentally damaging the shunt – this can happen, for example, during other operations which are unrelated to the shunt, but in which the shunt tube is accidentally moved or cut. 
  4. Negligent surgical treatment for a shunt – this can involve,for example, failing to properly consent a patient, negligently causing harm during the procedure, or failing to identify and treat post operative problems. If there is excess bleeding or a blood clot during an ETV then this can cause the patient to suffer a stroke, which can have lifelong consequences. 

How can Shoosmiths’ serious injury team help with hydrocephalus claims? 

In a successful medical negligence or personal injury claim relating to brain injury caused by hydrocephalus and/or its treatment, we obtain compensation for the injury itself and to assist our clients with their future needs. The aim of compensation is to put that person back to the position they were in before their injuries. 

Many people who have suffered a life changing brain injury desperately want to regain independence. A compensation package therefore will often include sums for:

  • External carers – this is to take the pressure away from family or loved ones, if the injured person requires help with their personal care or household jobs. 
  • Specialist rehabilitation – this is to ensure that the injured person meets their rehabilitation goals, to enhance their mobility and cognitive skills with physiotherapy, occupational therapy and often specialist neurorehabilitation, or psychological support. 
  • Accommodation – some people with hydrocephalus claims have difficulty using the stairs or become reliant upon walking aids such as a wheelchair. In this scenario, their current home may not be suitable, and they can use the compensation to adapt their home or purchase/build a single storey home. 
  • Equipment – having the right equipment to rehabilitate and gain independence can be vital to some people suffering from injuries associated with hydrocephalus. These items are often very expensive and require replacement in the future. 

Experienced Principal Associate solicitor, Natasha Read, based in Shoosmiths’ Birmingham office,  comments:

‘I would urge anybody who has concerns about their treatment for hydrocephalus to seek specialist legal advice from a solicitor with experience in this area. In my experience, these types of claim are incredibly complex, often resulting in a variety of life changing injuries and require the utmost care and attention.’



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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