Intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH) is a condition caused when blood cells in the brain burst and bleed into the brain's ventricles (hollow segments usually reserved for cerebrospinal fluid). The blood will also bleed into the tissue that surrounds the ventricles.
Sadly, IVH is a leading cause of death in premature infants, especially those born before 32 weeks; or low birth weight babies - in particular, those weighing less than 1500 grams. However, it is uncommon in full term babies.
If the child does survive the trauma, life long complications such as cerebal palsy, seizures, learning difficulties and other developmental problems are likely to result.
When IVH occurs, the trauma will be graded into one of three categories. These refer to how much blood has flowed into the ventricles.
Grade I means the bleed has occupied less than 10 per cent of the ventricle. This accounts for around 35 per cent of cases. Grade II is diagnosed when 10 to 50 per cent of the ventricle is affected, accounting for approximately 40 per cent of cases. Grade III means that more than 50 per cent of the ventricle has filled with blood.
Signs that IVH has happened include a bulging soft spot (fontanelle) on the top of the baby's head; convulsions; extreme sleepiness and, in some cases, coma.
While 50 per cent of cases are diagnosed on the day the haemorrhage occurs, 10-15 per cent will not display any symptoms for up to seven days after the trauma has happened.