Understandably many people are not aware of the differences between Hydranencephaly and Hydrocephalus. To be honest with you, when we first got Natan Shai I didn’t know the difference either, especially because he was diagnosed as having Hydranencephaly AND Hydrocephalus – I just presumed they were almost the same thing. But I was very wrong. There is a HUGE difference between the two diagnoses. So let’s take a look at what those differences are and how both diagnoses are treated, as well as learning about Cerebrospinal Fluid and why the body needs it.
So What Is The Difference Between Hydranencephaly And Hydrocephalus?
Hydranencephaly is an unusual condition whereby the cerebral hemispheres in the brain are absent and in their place are sacs filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Due to the lack of cerebral hemispheres, there is no significant neurological development, and the infant’s brain function remains at the newborn level forever. Although having said that, due to contrary belief, these babies and children often show very strong emotional reactions and are almostalways very aware of their surroundings.
Hydrocephalus on the other hand, (also called Water on the Brain), is a condition whereby there is an abnormal build
up of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) in the cavities (ventricles) of the brain. The buildup is often caused by an obstruction which prevents proper fluid drainage. This buildup of fluid can cause intracranial pressure inside the skull which then goes on to causes a progressive enlargement of the head, convulsions, and brain damage if not treated. In fact, if it is neglected it can be fatal.
So to put it simply:
Hydranencephaly is where the brain is replaced with Cerebrospinal fluid. Resulting in permanent serious brain damage.
Hydrocephalus is where there is a buildup of Cerebrospinal fluid in the cavities of the brain which prevents drainage. It does not necessarily result in brain damage. But it needs to be treated promptly to avoid complications.
What Is Cerebrospinal Fluid And What Are Its Functions?
- It protects the brain and spinal cord (which is the body’s nervous system) from damage.
- It drains waste from the brain, essentially making it the brain’s waste disposal system.
- It cultivates the brain with essential hormones that the brain needs in order to function.
About 1 pint of Cerebrospinal Fluid is produced by the brain every day. The blood vessels absorb the old CSF. If the release of old CSF is interrupted then CSF levels can rise, causing hydrocephalus.
How Are Hydrocephalus and Hydranencephaly Treated?
Hydrocephalus is treated by the surgical procedure of inserting what is called a shunt. A shunt is a drainage system whereby one end is inserted into the brain’s ventricles and then a tube is placed from there going down under the skin to either the abdomen or chamber of the heart area, where the CSF is then absorbed by the body. People who have a shunt inserted usually have them for the rest of their lives and it is important to get regular check-ups with a neurosurgeon.
Hydranencephaly – There is no official treatment for Hydranencephaly. If your baby has hydrocephalus as well (like Natan Shai does) then a shunt is needed as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the brain and enlargement of the skull. Sometimes (but definitely not always) a Hydranencephaly baby may suffer from Seizures, Cerebral Palsy, Blindness, Deafness, Breathing Difficulties, Feeding Disorders and other conditions. Although this is definitely not the case with all Hydran babies. Natan Shai suffers from Seizures, Cerebral Palsy and also has a Gastro. So treatment is given individually for whatever ailments your baby may suffer from.
So I hope you are now a bit more enlighted about the differences between Hydrocephalus and Hydranencephaly. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below. And if you’d like to learn more about Hydranencephaly please follow this link.
With Much Love,
Hannah (Natan Shai’s Mom)