The key difference between macrocephaly and hydrocephalus is that macrocephaly is a condition that causes a baby to have a larger head than other babies of the same age and sex, while hydrocephalus is a condition that causes fluid to build up in the cavities or ventricles deep within the brain.
Macrocephaly and hydrocephalus are two associated brain conditions. This is because macrocephaly can be caused by hydrocephalus. In hydrocephalus, there is an extra cerebrospinal fluid, which pushes the brain against the inside of the skull, which ultimately leads to increasing pressure on the brain and macrocephaly.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Macrocephaly
3. What is Hydrocephalus
4. Similarities – Macrocephaly and Hydrocephalus
5. Macrocephaly vs. Hydrocephalus in Tabular Form
6. Summary – Macrocephaly vs. Hydrocephalus
What is Macrocephaly?
Macrocephaly is a medical term used to describe a condition in which an individual, typically an infant or a young child, has an abnormally large head size in comparison to individuals of the same age and gender. This condition is diagnosed in about 2 to 5% of the population in the United States. Moreover, the common signs and symptoms of this condition may include rapid head growth, bulging veins on the head of the child, developmental delays, a downward gaze of the eyes of the child, firm or bulging space between the bones of the skull of the child, poor appetite, and having other conditions such as epilepsy or autism. Macrocephaly can be caused by enlarged brain hydrocephalus, bleeding in the brain of the child, overgrowth of skull bones, brain tumors, chronic hematomas, brain infection, like meningitis, encephalitis or abscess, genetic disorders such as achondroplasia, fragile X syndrome, neurofibromatosis type 1, Cowden syndrome, Gorlin syndrome, Greig cephalopolysyndactyly syndrome (GCPS), and raised intracranial pressure.
Macrocephaly can be diagnosed through physical examination (measuring head circumference), routine ultrasound, CT scan, fast MRI, and neurological examination. Furthermore, treatments for macrocephaly depend on the cause, which may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, behavioral therapy, surgery to relieve the fluid build-up or stop the brain bleeding, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and steroids for brain tumors.
What is Hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus is the fluid build-up within cavities called ventricles of the brain. In hydrocephalus, the excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles and puts more pressure on the brain. Moreover, the symptoms of hydrocephalus in infants may include an unusually large head (macrocephaly), a bulging soft spot on top of the head of the baby, downward gaze, vomiting, sleepiness, and the symptoms in older children may include headache, nausea, vomiting, vision problems, and developmental delays. The symptoms in adults may include headache, nausea, vomiting, vision problems, tiredness, problems with balance and coordination, and short-term memory loss, and symptoms in older adults may include gait disturbances, mild dementia, forgetfulness, and loss of bladder control ability. Hydrocephalus can be caused by spina bifida, a narrowing of the small passage between the third and fourth ventricles of the brain, complications of premature birth, infections during pregnancy (rubella), head trauma, stroke, brain or spinal cord tumors, meningitis, hemorrhage, and complications from surgery.
Hydrocephalus can be diagnosed through physical examination, neurological examination, brain imaging techniques such as ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI, spinal tap, intracranial pressure monitoring (ICP), and fundoscopic exams. Furthermore, hydrocephalus is only treated through brain surgeries such as shunt and endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV).
What are the Similarities Between Macrocephaly and Hydrocephalus?
- Macrocephaly and hydrocephalus are two associated brain conditions.
- Macrocephaly can be caused by hydrocephalus.
- Both conditions are predominantly present in children.
- They can be diagnosed through physical examination and imaging techniques.
- They are mainly treated through surgeries.
What is the Difference Between Macrocephaly and Hydrocephalus?
Macrocephaly is a condition that causes a baby to have a larger head than other babies of the same age and sex, while hydrocephalus is a condition that causes fluid to build up in the cavities or ventricles deep within the brain. Thus, this is the key difference between macrocephaly and hydrocephalus. Furthermore, macrocephaly affects about 2 to 5% of the population in the United States. On the other hand, hydrocephalus affects 1 to 2 of every 1000 babies in the United States.
The infographic below presents the differences between macrocephaly and hydrocephalus in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Macrocephaly vs Hydrocephalus
The brain is the body’s control center and also a part of the nervous system. Brain disorders affect the brain. They are caused by illness, genetics, or traumatic injury. Macrocephaly and hydrocephalus are two associated brain conditions. Moreover, macrocephaly can be caused by hydrocephalus. However, macrocephaly is due to a baby having a larger head than other babies of the same age and sex, while hydrocephalus is due to the fluid build-up within the cavities called ventricles of the brain. So, this summarizes the difference between macrocephaly and hydrocephalus.
1. “Campomelic dysplasia” By Anna E. von BohlenJohann BöhmRamona PopDiana S. JohnsonJohn TolmieRalf StückerDeborah Morris‐RosendahlGerd Scherer – (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Hydrocephalus (cropped)” By Lucien Monfils – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia