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Fetal Ventriculomegaly


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Fetal ventriculomegaly is the enlargement of the fluid-filled spaces of the brain called the ventricles. This type of ventriculomegaly occurs in babies before they are born.

Causes    TOP

Fetal ventriculomegaly may be caused by problems with brain development or the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is a fluid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. Normally the fluid can move smoothly around the brain and spine. If CSF flow is slowed or stopped it can put pressure on the ventricles and make them expand.

Risk Factors    TOP

Conditions in the baby that may increase the risk of ventriculomegaly include:

  • Intracranial cysts
  • Spinal bifida
  • Agenesis of the corpus callosum
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage

Certain infections of the mother during pregnancy can increase the risk of fetal ventriculomegaly. Infections associated with ventriculomegaly include:

  • Cytomegalovirus—an infection caused by a type of herpes virus
  • Toxoplasmosis—an infection associated with cat feces or infected food
  • Syphilis—a sexually transmitted disease
  • Chickenpox
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis—a virus spread by mice (rare)

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms after birth may include:

  • Rapid head growth
  • Bulging soft spot
  • Protruding scalp veins
  • Difficulty with eye movement, including inability to look up and staring downward
  • Developmental delays
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability or unusual sleepiness

Diagnosis    TOP

Fetal ventriculomegaly is often found during a routine prenatal ultrasound. Further testing may be done by specialists and after birth.

During pregnancy, the fetus’ condition may be assessed with:

Abdominal Ultrasound

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Treatment    TOP

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.


Additional ultrasounds may be done to monitor the fetus’ condition. Sometimes fetal ventriculomegaly resolves on its own.

Draining the CSF

If the condition is severe or worsens, alternative pathways will be needed to drain the CSF. This can be done by inserting a ventriculoperitoneal shunt after your child is born.

Prevention    TOP

There is no known way to prevent fetal ventriculomegaly.


American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Women’s Health—US Department of Health and Human Services


The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada


Craig A, Lober R, et al. Complex fetal care: Implications of fetal ventriculomegaly: a neurosurgical perspective. NeoReviews. 2015;16;e254. Available at:
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Accessed June 6, 2016.
Hydrocephalus in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated December 21, 2015. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Pediatric Ventriculomegaly. Children’s National Health System website. Available at:
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Accessed June 6, 2016.
Ventriculomegaly. The Fetal Treatment Center website. Available at: Accessed June 6, 2016.
Ventriculomegaly and hydrocephaly. Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 6, 2016.
Ventriculomegaly in children. Boston Children’s Hospital website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Published 2012. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Karri Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 6/7/2016

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