Diagnosing Hydrocephalus (Water on the Brain)

How Do Doctors Diagnose Hydrocephalus?

A doctor may diagnose hydrocephalus at birth through a series of tests and questions, including:

  • A complete history of the child, including a prenatal/birth history and whether a family history of hydrocephalus or other medical problems exists
  • A complete physical examination, including a detailed eye exam
  • An assessment of developmental milestones as compared to siblings and other babies

Diagnostic tests are performed to establish the diagnosis of hydrocephalus, such as:

  • Ultrasound: A diagnostic procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to give a detailed picture of the brain and its ventricles. This test can be performed before or after birth and can be used until the age when the child’s skull fuses
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A diagnostic procedure that uses an applied magnetic field to produce detailed, computer-generated images of the brain.
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan): A procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices) of any part of the body, including the brain.