Little Skyler Crow is a thriving 10 month old. But his parents remember how frail he was, when he was born prematurely.
"Two pounds seven ounces," said Krisin Crow, adding "I was admittedly terrified."
During his stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, Skyler developed hydrocephalus, a dangerous buildup of fluid on his brain. According to estimates, one to two of every 1,000 babies are born with hydrocephalus. Doctors told the Crows their baby would need a shunt, a surgically implanted tube to divert the fluid. It had risks.
"There were a high rate of infections, complications and we would be in the NICU for a very long time," Crow said.
A shunt saves a baby's life. But most of the devices eventually fail. When that happens it's an emergency that requires another surgery.
"Many families, they don't go on vacations anymore because they're worried there's not going to be a neurosurgeon or somebody close if the shunt malfunctions. So it's a very difficult way to live life," said Seattle Children's Dr. Samuel Browd.
Dr. Browd is a pediatric neurosurgeon and Director of Hydrocephalus at Seattle Children's. He led the team that performed a new procedure on Skyler.
The procedure is known as Choroid Plexus Cauterization. It is performed during a surgery called Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy or ETV. The combination surgery sometimes goes by the acronym ETV/CPC.
Here's how it worked for Skyler. Using tiny instruments, surgeons made a hole to unblock the fluid in Skyler's brain. Then they cauterized surrounding tissue, eliminating the brain's ability to make excess fluid.
"You've essentially treated the hydrocephalus. So the pressure is reduced. The brain can re-expand. And children can hopefully go about a normal life and growth phase," said Dr. Browd.
In less than a month the Crows have seen a dramatic change in Skyler.
"...who's sitting, who's trying to crawl, who's just happy," said Kristin Crow.
Skyler is one of just a handful of infants so far in our region to get the new procedure. It's only an option for some children with hydrocephalus. His parents are grateful Skyler was one of them.
"We had another option that we never even knew existed," said Crow.
Right now the procedure is done during a baby's first year of life. But Dr. Browd hopes it will some day help older children too.