What is ventriculomegaly?

Your child’s brain and spinal cord are covered in a clear protective liquid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). There are spaces within the brain (ventricles) that are also filled with CSF. Ventriculomegaly is a condition in which the ventricles appear larger than normal on a prenatal ultrasound. This can occur when CSF becomes trapped in the spaces, causing them to grow larger. Ventricles develop early in pregnancy and can be seen on a prenatal ultrasound in the second trimester, at about the 15th week.

This condition occurs in approximately one in 1,000 infants. Typically, ventriculomegaly only requires treatment if it causes hydrocephalus. Since the excessive pressure caused by the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in hydrocephalus can lead to serious, long-term neurological damage, prompt treatment is a must.

What are the symptoms of ventriculomegaly?

Infants with mild ventriculomegaly usually don’t have any symptoms. If the ventriculomegaly progresses, the baby may have symptoms of hydrocephalus, including:

  • an unusually large head
  • a rapid increase in head size
  • extreme sleepiness
  • vomiting
  • trouble looking up when the head is facing forward
  • seizures with no known cause

What are the causes of ventriculomegaly?

Although there’s not always a single reason why a child develops ventriculomegaly, there are four main factors that can cause enlargement of the ventricles:

  • a problem that prevents cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) fluid from circulating and being absorbed normally in the brain, which causes hydrocephalus
  • a minor imbalance in fluid circulation and absorption
  • defects in brain development
  • damage or loss of brain tissue

Ventriculomegaly usually occurs spontaneously, which means that a child does not inherit the condition from the parents.

How we care for ventriculomegaly

Clinicians in the Hydrocephalus Program here at Boston Children’s Hospital specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ventriculomegaly and hydrocephalus. When surgery is necessary, we use minimally-invasive techniques to avoid placement of a shunt whenever we can. Our experts are highly experienced in all of these procedures, and will work with you and your family to determine which approach best suits your child.

Our approach is both patient-focused and family-centered. We never lose sight of the fact that your child is an individual, and we include your family at every stage of the treatment process.