Most children who have hydrocephalus make a successful recovery after surgery and go on to lead healthy lives. Many children with pediatric hydrocephalus have normal intelligence and physical development, but some may be slower to develop skills such as hand-eye coordination or learning to walk. Some may experience learning problems as they progress in school.
Developmental progress varies from child to child and is influenced by the cause of the hydrocephalus and if it has led to any damage to the brain. Physicians at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone work with parents to develop a postoperative recovery plan that best suits the needs of each child.
If necessary, your child’s doctor can refer you to other doctors at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital who specialize in managing developmental delay and learning disorders in children. We also provide a number of services to help you and your child cope with hydrocephalus. These child and family support services and resilience programs are provided by Sala Institute for Child and Family Centered Care.
A critical aspect of managing hydrocephalus is staying vigilant about complications that can arise from a shunt malfunction. Most problems associated with shunt implantation, such as an obstruction along the shunt tube, occur weeks or even years after the surgery, and some children may need to have the shunt repaired or replaced.
Your child needs ongoing checkups and lifelong follow-up with his or her doctors, especially your child’s neurosurgeon, to check the shunt. During these visits, your child may have imaging tests such as MRI to check how the shunt is working. The doctor may also measure your child’s head growth, assess his or her developmental progress, and monitor for any complications, such as excess drainage or infection at the surgical site.
Most children visit their neurosurgeon every three to six months for the first year following surgery, then annually after that. Our doctors also educate families on proper shunt maintenance and how to check whether a shunt is working properly.
Excessive pressure on the brain from hydrocephalus can permanently impact the brain in infants or children, which may affect their physical and cognitive development. Your child’s doctor may recommend physical, occupational, or speech therapy to address other difficulties associated with hydrocephalus. NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation provides these services for children with hydrocephalus on an outpatient basis.
Physical therapy can help a child reach physical milestones, such as sitting, standing, crawling, or walking, as well as improve a child’s coordination, balance, and motor skills. Physical therapists at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital develop an individualized treatment program tailored to a child’s age and needs.
If hydrocephalus has caused developmental delay or communicative problems, our speech and language pathologists are trained to diagnose communication impairments and evaluate their impact on the child’s everyday functioning, performance in school, and social interactions.
It is important for the speech and language pathologist to determine the type of disorder and level of severity in order to help plan for the rehabilitation needs of your child, and to assist the rehab team in understanding how best to communicate with the child. The treatment program is tailor-made to fit the communicative needs of each child. Family education about communication changes associated with conditions caused by hydrocephalus is also an integral part of our programs.
For children with developmental or physical impairments due to hydrocephalus, occupational therapists—medical professionals who help people participate in the activities they want and need to do in their daily lives—can help with the functions of daily living, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, reasoning skills, and communication.
Therapeutic activities are chosen on an individual basis in order to help children meet their goals and ultimately improve their quality of life. Our occupational therapists assist children in adapting to their environment by developing strategies and techniques to help them successfully perform different tasks. Occupational therapists can also recommend assistive equipment that can help the child to develop independence if needed, such as a wheelchair or walker.
Our licensed clinical social workers are dedicated to helping families of children with hydrocephalus cope with the stress of this chronic condition. They can provide psychological and social assessments of children with the condition.
Our social workers can also connect families with a variety of community resources, such as counseling to address living with a chronic condition, planning transportation needs for medical care, or coordinating family-care dynamics, such as day-to-day care for the child while he or she recovers.
Our social workers also work with families outside of the New York metro area to secure discount accommodations while their child is being treated at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.
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