Hydrocephalus and Blocked Shunts

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Hydrocephalus and Blocked Shunts

Hydrocephalus is a very serious condition whereby the fluid surrounding the brain is made in excess and builds up causing increased pressure. If such pressure builds up to a certain degree then damage can be caused to the brain tissue.

Although the condition has been formally known as ‘water on the brain’, it is cerebrospinal fluid that is being built up around the brain. It is a clear fluid containing glucose that flows around the spine and brain. It acts as a protection mechanism as well as carrying vital nutrients to the brain.

Symptoms of Hydrocephalus in adults can range from nausea, headaches, vomiting, blurred vision, confusion, and poor coordination. If the build up of the cerebrospinal fluid is gradual, as is in most cases then these symptoms can develop over time.

There are three main types of Hydrocephalus:

  • Congenital Hydrocephalus (from birth),
  • Acquired Hydrocephalus (usually after illness)
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus NPH (usually developed in the elderly).

How can Hydrocephalus be treated?

Hydrocephalus is usually treated by a shunt being implanted into the brain. The shunt is a thin tube that is used to drain away the excess fluid to a different part of the body, often an abdominal cavity where it can be absorbed into the body. The shunt is controlled by a valve disc that is placed behind the ear through a burr hole and can sometimes be felt under the skin. The pressure controlling the valve is controlled externally through a computer, which can lead to mechanical failings such as the shunt becoming blocked.

Blocked Shunt – what happens if left untreated?

Should the shunt malfunction and become blocked you may expect to experience hydrocephalus symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches that medication can not ease. It is an emergency situation and medical attention should be sought immediately as if left untreated the fluid pressure will build up and cause damage to vital brain tissue. Usually, emergency surgery will be carried out to replace the blocked shunt.

It is vital that doctors and medical professionals recognise and diagnose the symptoms of a blocked shunt as early as possible. The failure to do so can result in significant and lasting brain injury to the patient.

Hydrocephalus Case Study

We are currently investigating a claim on behalf of a 44-year-old male client who has suffered as a result of a failure to diagnose and treat his blocked shunt as an emergency.

Our client was suffering from symptoms of nausea, headaches, and the shunt was visible. He had previously suffered from a blocked hydrocephalus shunt and was aware of what symptoms to look out for. Our client was examined in Hospital and sent away with pain relief on several occasions. His symptoms worsened and he later went on to suffer from; intense headaches, severe vomiting, passing out, photophobia, seizures, EVD, Psychosis, as well as prolonged pain.

We have obtained supportive expert evidence which supports our client’s case for both breach of duty and causation. Had the Hospital diagnosed and treated the blocked shunt in a timely manner it is likely that our client would have avoided the severe symptoms he suffered thereafter.

Do you have a potential medical negligence claim?

If you feel that you have suffered any form of negligent treatment please do not hesitate to contact us for free advice regarding whether you may have a potential medical negligence claim. Our clinical negligence team at Oliver & Co is headed by Linda Schermer-Jones, who is a qualified doctor as well as a qualified solicitor. We, therefore, benefit greatly from the in-house medical knowledge and can assess any areas of potential negligence care quickly and efficiently.

Our team of highly specialised solicitors deal with a wide range of medical claims, including delayed diagnosis and treatment of a blocked hydrocephalus shunt. Our solicitors work on a team basis and we benefit from pooling all of our legal and medical knowledge together to provide the best services for our clients.

If you would like free advice on whether you have a potential clinical negligence claim or assistance with drafting a letter of complaint, please contact a member of our specialised team on the number below. Please note that there are legal time limits in place for starting a claim for compensation, and our specialist clinical negligence solicitors will be able to advise you specifically on the facts of your own case.

For free advice from our Medical Negligence solicitors, please call us direct on 01244 354688

Linda Schermer-Jones

Head of the Clinical Negligence Department, Associate Director & Medical Negligence Solicitor

Kerry Goulden

Associate Director & Medical Negligence Solicitor

Liz Fry

Associate Director & Medical Negligence Solicitor

Emma Woodrow

Clinical Negligence Legal Adviser