Spina bifida and hydrocephalus

What is spina bifida?

Spina bifida is a condition that happens during a baby’s development in the womb when the spinal cord or vertebrae don’t develop as they should. Spina bifida can cause leg weakness or paralysis, problems with bowel and urinary incontinence and loss of sensation.

When might a spina bifida claim arise?

  • Failing to scan a baby’s spine when a dimple, hairy patch or strawberry mark (haemangioma) was present at birth
  • Delay in diagnosing a tethered spinal cord (For further information about tethered spinal cords: understanding, diagnosis, and treatment please click here)
  • Failing to recognise symptoms of hydrocephalus
  • Poor management of pressure sores
  • Failing to diagnose spina bifida on a 20 week scan and missing the opportunity for surgery in the womb or to have a choice about progressing with the pregnancy.

What is hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus is often known as ‘water on the brain’. It happens when the brain produces more cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that it can absorb which creates high pressure in the brain.

Normally, CSF moves through the brain and down the spinal cord. When there is a block in the flow of CSF because of a bleed in the brain, a brain tumour, spina bifida or a brain infection like meningitis, it can cause hydrocephalus.

High pressure in the brain caused by hydrocephalus causes damage to the brain tissue. It can happen to children or adults.

When might a hydrocephalus claim arise?

  • Failure to adequately measure a baby’s head circumference
  • Failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a brain tumour
  • Delay in referring for investigations where symptoms of hydrocephalus are present
  • Poorly performed shunt surgery
  • Failing to recognise shunt dysfunction
  • Missed diagnosis of shunt infection

Shine is the national charity supporting those with spina bifida and hydrocephalus and their families. The Shine website contains a wealth of information about both conditions and how Shine can help.

We are appointed to Shine’s legal panel to support those who have concerns about the medical care they have received in connection with spina bifida or hydrocephalus.

Katherine Pearce, legal director, has worked with Shine for many years and heads up the partnership with Shine. Katherine has successfully investigated many cases where mistakes in the treatment of spina bifida and hydrocephalus have caused injuries or loss and is in a unique position to understand the challenges that members may experience as she has a child with hydrocephalus.

If you would like to speak to us about concerns you may have in relation to your care or treatment, please contact us.

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