Why is Spinal Fluid Drainage Needed for Hydrocephalus?
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) is treated by draining excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or “spinal fluid” that has accumulated within cavities called ventricles inside the brain. When excess fluid builds up, the ventricles become enlarged, which causes a number of different symptoms as fluid is pressed against the brain. This extra fluid can affect the shape of the brain and lead to brain damage if treatment is delayed or if a patient with normal pressure hydrocephalus is left untreated due to a misdiagnosis.
70% to 90% of treated patients who are treated for normal pressure hydrocephalus have lasting clinical benefits after shunting when compared to their preoperative state. For some normal pressure hydrocephalus can be almost entirely reversed if the appropriate treatment is given early on. However, if treatment is delayed or the patient is not a candidate for surgical intervention the damage may be irreversible and the symptoms will only increase overtime.
What are the Symptoms of NPH?
Those with an excess amount of cerebrospinal fluid present with symptoms similar to that of patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. The three main symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus include:
- Gait and balance problems which range in severity, from mild imbalance to the inability to stand or walk. Many patients may have trouble picking up their feet, walking up stairs or curbs and they may have frequently falls. They may also walk with their feet held wider apart than normal, shuffle their feet or have general unsteadiness.
- A noticeable decline in cognitive skills that includes an overall slowing of thought process, impaired reasoning or planning ability, a decrease in concentration and/or changes in personality and behavior.
- Urinary incontinence typically occurs later in the disease and includes frequent urination, increase in urgency, or incontinence.
Who is Affected by Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus?
Normal pressure hydrocephalus, though rare, most often affects adults 60 and older, and its symptoms may often lead to misdiagnoses of dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease by doctors unfamiliar with normal pressure hydrocephalus. The symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus mimic
- Dementia symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s
- Walking problems similar to Parkinson’s disease
Patients with a combination of dementia symptoms, walking problems, and bladder problems should be evaluated for normal pressure hydrocephalus to ensure that the correct diagnosis is made. If a patient is diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus it can be reversed unlike Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But first it must be correctly diagnosed.
Getting the Correct Diagnosis
Normal pressure hydrocephalus is a progressive medical condition with symptoms that many associate with normal aging and typical diseases found in the elderly. Due to the similarity in symptoms between patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus and those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus often be misdiagnosed.
To confirm that a diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease is correct we recommend that patients be evaluated by a specialist who has a complete and thorough understanding of normal pressure hydrocephalus and the forms of reversible “dementia”.
Our neurologists evaluate patients and ensure proper diagnosis by:
- Reviewing past medical records and any MRI or CT scans
- Ordering a neurological examinations
- Conduct diagnostic procedures
The Spinal Fluid Drainage Hydrocephalus Procedure
While there is no cure for normal pressure hydrocephalus it is treatable and by draining the excess spinal fluid that has accumulated. Once a proper medical evaluation is completed and the doctor has confirmed the diagnosis of normal pressure hydrocephalus shut surgery is performed to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid from the brain on an ongoing basis.
Follow-up appointments are typically required to detect subtle changes after surgery and to address other medical conditions they may have.
Meet Our Neurologists
At Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles our neurologists specialize in evaluating and treating patients who have signs of or been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease or who have noticed memory issues. Dr. Franc, Dr. O’Connor, Dr. Jordan and Dr. Shimizu all evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who have either been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease or who have noticed memory issues. In some cases a diagnosis of one of these diseases can in fact be a misdiagnose 5% or more of the time and symptoms may be entirely reversible by draining spinal fluid. If left untreated for too long a reversible dementia may result in long term brain damage that cannot be reversed. If you or a loved one has received a diagnoses of one of these debilitating diseases or suffer from memory issues contact one of our neurologists for a full evaluation and ensure the correct diagnosis at 310-829-5968.