Testing & diagnosis for hydrocephalus in children

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Contact the Hydrocephalus Program

How is hydrocephalus diagnosed?

When hydrocephalus is congenital (present at birth), it doesn’t usually develop until the third trimester of the mother’s pregnancy. Fetal ultrasound is used to diagnose hydrocephalus when a baby is still in the womb.

In infants and older children, hydrocephalus is diagnosed with one or more of the following tests:

  • an ultrasound, a type of imaging that uses high-frequency sound waves to take pictures of the body's organs
  • a computed tomography (CT) scan, a non-invasive procedure using x-ray equipment and powerful computers to create detailed images of particular parts of the body
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a combination of electromagnets, radio frequency waves and computers that take two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of organs and other body structures
  • intracranial pressure monitoring, which measures the pressure in a child's skull by either: 1) placing a small, hollow tube into the brain's ventricle where the cerebrospinal fluid is produced or 2) inserting a small, hollow bolt or screw into the space just inside the brain's covering and using a monitor to take constant readings, sounding an alarm if the pressure begins to rise 
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