Hydranencephaly is a severe congenital birth defect in which the brain’s cerebral hemispheres do not develop properly, and sacs of cerebrospinal fluid fill in the space normally occupied by the brain. Although the exact cause of the condition remains unknown, mounting research and numerous case studies have pointed to the maternal use of certain prescription medications during pregnancy as the likely culprit. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it is important not to take any prescription drugs without first consulting your doctor.

Hydranencephaly Suit Review: If you or somebody you know has a child who has been diagnosed with hydranencephaly after being exposed to a prescription drug 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 drugs have been linked to hydranencephaly?

The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram), Zoloft (sertraline), Celexa (citalopram), Wellbutrin (bupropion), Symbyax (fluoxetine & olanzapine), and Effexor (venlafaxine) have been linked to a great number of potentially life-threatening birth defects including hydranencephaly.

Additionally, anti-epileptic drugs such as Depakote (divalproex sodium), Depakene (valproic acid), and depacon (valproate sodium injection) have been increasingly linked to congenital abnormalities like hydranencephaly. Pregnant women or women who are trying to conceive while under the treatment of any of these drugs should be warned against continuous use without first consulting and discussing it with their doctors.

Hydranencephaly Overview

Hydranencephaly is a rare but extremely serious congenital birth defect in which the brain’s hemispheres are missing and replaced by sacs of cerebrospinal fluid. A newborn baby with hydranencephaly may appear normal at first – his or her head size and spontaneous reflexes characteristic of newborns may all seem normal. However, within several days to weeks, the baby usually becomes irritable and displays increased muscle tone. After a few months, seizures and hydrocephalus (excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain) tend to occur. Other telltale signs and symptoms may include:

  • visual impairment
  • lack of growth
  • deafness
  • blindness
  • spastic quadriparesis (paralysis)
  • intellectual deficits

Hydranencephaly is considered by many medical professionals to be an extreme form of porencephaly, a rare congenital disorder characterized by a cyst or cavity in the cerebral hemispheres. Diagnosis is often delayed for several months because behavior may appear relatively normal at first. Some babies born with hydranencephaly may have additional abnormalities at birth including (but not limited to):

  • seizures
  • myoclonus (spasm or twitching of a muscle group or group of muscles)
  • respiratory problems
  • asthma/reactive airways disease
  • diabetes Insipidus (a high sodium level and excessive urine output)
  • gastro esophageal reflux
  • constipation


Seizures are one of the most commonly reported side effects associated with hydranencephaly. The type and severity of the seizures vary greatly from child to child. Most seizures reported in hydranencephaly patients are fairly short and mild, but some children do have longer and more severe seizures. There are many different seizure medications available, and often a child must take more than one drug at a time. A major problem both in diagnosing a child who has hydranencephaly with seizures and in treating them is that electroencephalographs (EEGs) and medications are geared towards those who are having cortical seizures. Most children with hydranencephaly have no cortex and have brain stem seizures.

Risk Factors

In addition to the maternal use of antidepressants during pregnancy, there are a number of other factors that may contribute to a fetus developing hydranencephaly. Stroke among the pregnant mother may be among the highest of these factors. Death of a twin in utero also raises this risk. Illegal drug abuse may result in the failed development of the brain. Additionally, the medical literature cites exposure to a variety of illnesses in the womb.

Hydranencephaly Outlook (Prognosis)

Due to the severity of the condition, there is usually no standard treatment for babies born with hydranencephaly. Treatment is generally symptomatic and supportive. Unfortunately, the long-term outlook for children with hydranencephaly is generally quite poor. Death typically occurs before the child’s first birthday. However, there is also a fair percentage of children who live past their first year and may live into their teens or early twenties.

Children with hydranencephaly will obviously require intensive support. A significant amount of mental impairment is to be expected, and children may need round-the-clock care for the duration of their lifetimes. Parents may also benefit from outside support, since being a long-term caregiver of a child with hydranencephaly can be stressful and challenging at times. There are a number of Internet groups that can help provide parent-to-parent support for those raising children with the condition.

Is there a time limit in filing a hydranencephaly lawsuit?

Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their hydranencephaly 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 hydranencephaly birth defects lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.

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