Dandy-Walker syndrome (DWS) is a severe congenital birth defect involving the area at the back of the brain that controls movement. Symptoms of this condition include slow motor development, progressive enlargement of the skull, vomiting, jerky movements, and lack of muscle coordination. While the exact causes of Dandy-Walker syndrome are sill largely unknown to the medical community, mounting evidence and numerous case studies have linked DWS to the maternal use of certain prescription drugs by expecting mothers during pregnancy.

Dandy-Walker Syndrome Lawsuit Review: If you or somebody you know has given birth to a child who has been diagnosed with Dandy-Walker syndrome after being exposed to a prescription medication in the womb, you should contact our lawyers immediately. Consultations are always free. Please use our confidential email contact form or call toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

Which medications have been linked to Dandy-Walker syndrome?

Pregnant women suffering from depression and other severe psychological conditions often find themselves having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Should they take antidepressant drugs and risk the possibility of birth defects in their babies, or should they avoid the medications and risk a relapse (which could also cause injury to an unborn baby)? The following selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants have been linked to severe birth defects like Dandy-Walker syndrome when taken by expecting mothers during pregnancy (especially during the first trimester, a time when many women may still be unaware they are pregnant):

  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Symbyax (fluoxetine and olanzapine)
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)

In addition to these antidepressants, the fertility drug Clomid (clomiphene) has also been associated with Dandy-Walker syndrome in babies born to mothers who took the drugs during pregnancy

Dandy-Walker Syndrome (DWS) Overview

Dandy-Walker syndrome (also commonly referred to as Dandy-Walker complex) is a severe congenital birth defect that occurs in the early stages of pregnancy during the development of the cerebellum and 4th ventricle. The cerebellum is the region of the brain that helps coordinate movement, cognition, and behavior. The 4th ventricle is the space around the cerebellum that channels fluid from inside to around the outside of the brain. DWS is characterized by:

  • underdevelopment (small size and abnormal position) of the middle part of the cerebellum, which is known as the cerebellar vermis;
  • cystic enlargement of the 4th ventricle;
  • enlargement of the base of the skull (posterior fossa);
  • hydrocephalus – blockage of the normal flow of spinal fluid that leads to excessive amounts of fluid accumulating in and around the brain.

Additionally, DWS is commonly associated with congenital defects of the central nervous system (CNS), including absence of the area made up of nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres (corpus callosum), as well as abnormalities of the heart, face, limbs, fingers and toes.

Signs & Symptoms

Depending on the severity of the condition, Dandy-Walker syndrome can appear dramatically or develop totally undetected. Signs and symptoms that may occur in early infancy may include:

  • slow motor development
  • progressive enlargement of the skull
  • increased intracranial pressure
  • irritability
  • vomiting
  • unsteadiness
  • lack of muscle coordination
  • jerky movements of the eyes
  • increased head circumference
  • bulging at the back of the skull
  • problems with the nerves that control the eyes, face and neck
  • abnormal breathing patterns

Classification of Dandy-Walker Syndrome

The term ‘Dandy Walker’ actually refers to three separate and distinct abnormalities of the brain which coexist. They are divided into three closely associated forms:

  • DWS malformation – The most severe presentation of the syndrome, DWS malformation is characterized by an enlarged posterior fossa and a tentorium that is in high position. There is partial or complete agenesis of the cerebellar vermis, as well as cystic dilation of the fourth ventricle, which fills the posterior fossa.
  • DWS mega cisterna magna – The posterior fossa and cisterna are enlarged, and there is a large accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the cisterna magna in the posterior fossa. The cerebellar vermis and the 4th ventricle are normal.
  • DWS variant – The least severe manifestation of Dandy Walker, variant represents the most wide-ranging set of symptoms of DWS. The 4th ventricle is only mildly enlarged, and there is mild enlargement of the posterior fossa. The cerebellar vermis is hypoplastic and has a variably-sized cyst space. Patients who do not fit into the other two categories are often labeled as variant.

Treatment & Outlook (Prognosis)

Treatment for babies born with DWS is generally symptomatic, consisting of treating the associated problems accompanying the condition. If necessary, a shunt may be required to be inserted to drain off excessive fluid within the brain. A shunt can help reduce intracranial pressure and help control swelling. Parents of children with DWS may benefit from genetic counseling if they plan on becoming pregnant again.

The effects of DWS on cognitive development vary greatly from case to case, with some children having normal cognition and others never achieving normal intellectual milestones. Longevity is directly proportional to the severity of the condition and associated congenital defects. The presence of multiple serious abnormalities may significantly shorten the patient’s life span.

Is there a time limit in filing a Dandy-Walker Syndrome lawsuit?

Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their Dandy-Walker syndrome lawyer, it is important that you understand that time is of the essence. The applicable statute of limitations in your state may time bar your claim. Furthermore, we are unable to provide you with legal advice without first evaluating your potential case. Accordingly, please take the time now to contact us by using the confidential email contact form below or by calling us toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

We hope we will be able to assist you with your potential Dandy-Walker syndrome birth defects lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.


Attention Lawyers:  Schmidt & Clark, LLP considers a referral from another lawyer to be one of the greatest compliments. Our law firm has built a reputation for success and accepts a number of case referrals on a regular basis. We do not publish prior verdicts or settlements on our website. If you would like to refer us a case or for us to send you a profile of prior award judgments or average referral fees, please fill out the form below.