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What Is Brain Herniation, and When Is It Medical Malpractice?

By Grant Law Office on October 13, 2019

Water is necessary for life, but “water on the brain” can be a death sentence for a human. Hydrocephalus is a condition that occurs when cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain, causing brain tissue to bulge out of position. This is called brain herniation, and it is often fatal if not treated immediately.

When medical professionals fail to diagnose, prevent, and treat brain complications like this, they can be held liable to the victims and their families. Grant Law Office would like to share the basics of this medical issue with you. Information is power, and you should always be proactive about your health while listening to the experts. If you have questions about an experience you had in an Atlanta, Macon, Columbus or other Georgia hospital, please don’t hesitate to call (404) 995-3955 for a free chat with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

How Cerebrospinal Fluid Works

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced continuously by special cells in the brain, and it cushions the brain and spinal cord. It is a shock absorber and support for the central nervous system; it brings nutrients to the brain and flushes out waste while we sleep; it lubricates the movement of skull and spinal column; and it helps regulate blood pressure in the brain.

Because CSF is continuously being replenished, it is constantly being broken down and reabsorbed by the body. If anything interferes with the production or breakdown of the fluid, it can accumulate and put pressure on the brain. A head injury that causes swelling or bleeding, a stroke, a brain tumor, or an infection can cause a dangerous buildup of pressure.

What Causes Hydrocephalus and Brain Herniation?

Hydrocephalus, or excess CSF fluid, causes an abnormal widening of spaces in the brain called ventricles. There are various parts of the brain that may be affected, and hydrocephalus may develop slowly or quickly, depending on the source. This condition may be acquired at birth through a genetic defect, or be inflicted by birth injury, head trauma, stroke, or infection.

Some symptoms and side effects of hydrocephalus include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Balance problems/gait disturbance
  • Incontinence or frequent urination
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Changes in personality or thoughts, including memory loss

The main treatment for hydrocephalus is inserting a shunt in the brain, which helps drain the excess cerebrospinal fluid, relieving the pressure.

When Is a Brain Herniation Medical Malpractice?

A failure to diagnose hydrocephalus, leading to brain damage caused by herniation, may be grounds for a medical malpractice case. Doctors should use cranial imagine technology, such as CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and pressure-monitoring technology to determine whether a person has hydrocephalus. Then, there is really only one treatment.

A shunt is a catheter that is inserted into the brain, allowing CSF to drain out into another part of the body (like the abdomen) where it is reabsorbed by the circulatory system. Shunts require monitoring and regular follow-up, and about 50% of all shunts tend to fail within two years.

  • Shunt blockage: If there is a blockage in the device, the patient faces the same problem as before the shunt was placed – the CSF does not drain and builds up, creating a deadly situation.
  • Shunt overdraining: If the shunt allows CSF to drain too quickly, the patient can end up with headaches, torn blood vessels leading to hemorrhages, and even brain ventricle collapse.
  • Infection in the shunt: The patient may develop a fever, soreness of the neck or shoulder muscles, and redness or tenderness along the shunt tract. If the infection goes untreated, it can spread system-wide and become sepsis.
  • Shunt breakdown: Pieces of the device can travel throughout the body, causing serious damage.

Seek medical attention immediately if you sense anything wrong with your shunt. Surgery may be required to unblock the device, replace a failing part, or replace the entire shunt system altogether. If a doctor failed to monitor and take proper care of the shunt, you have a valid claim for compensation.

Grant Law Office handles brain herniation cases involving shunt issues. Wayne and Kimberly Grant, husband-and-wife trial lawyers, have deep experience in medical malpractice claims. Schedule your free consultation by calling (404) 995-3955 or toll-free (866) 249-5513.

Additional Information:

NIH: Hydrocephalus Fact Sheet

Related Articles:

Posted in: Medical Malpractice

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