Doctors Drain Fluid From 15-month-old Indian’s Swollen Head

baby with hydrocephalus

An Indian baby who is suffering from a condition that made her skull swell to nearly double its size is on her way to living a normal life, as doctors have begun draining fluid from her head.

15-month-old Roona Begum, who was born with hydrocephalus, a condition that results in a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain, was found earlier this month living with her parents who are too poor to pay for life-saving treatment.

Publication of pictures of Roona in the remote Tripura state in northeast India last week prompted a top hospital near New Delhi to offer to examine the child and led well-wishers abroad to set up an online fund for her.

Roona’s condition has resulted in her head swelling to a circumference of 94 centimetres, putting pressure on her brain and making it impossible for her to sit upright or crawl.

Dr. Sandeep Vaishya, who heads the neurosurgery unit at the flagship hospital run by the private Fortis Healthcare group near New Delhi, said he had begun draining out the fluid.

“We began the process today of draining the fluid out of her head externally. It is going to be a slow process and will take us at least ten days, maybe longer,” said Vaishya.

The surgical insertion of a shunt, which drains the fluid out of the brain and towards another part of the body where it can be absorbed easily into the bloodstream is the most common treatment of hydrocephalus, and it would have been ideal for Roona. But in her case, however, the huge size of her head relative to the rest of her body complicates matters, according to Vaishya.

“Her weight is just over 14 kilograms. We estimate that more than half of that must be the weight of the fluid in her head, since she is very small,” Vaishya said.

“There is no way her body can absorb all this fluid,” he said.

Worse still, Roona has developed a skin condition on the base of her head, leading her doctors to worry that a shunt could pierce through her scalp and leak fluid through the skin, causing new complications.

“When we pierced her skin to put in the catheter today to drain out the fluid, her scalp was like paper — so thin,” Vaishya said.

“There is no way she can take the pressure of a shunt at the moment so we are going to have to wait a while before we can consider surgery,” he added.

Thewebsite for donations to Roona has already raised more than $34,000.

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