Normal pressure hydrocephalus

What is normal pressure hydrocephalus?

People usually think of Hydrocephalus as a condition that affects young babies and children and is associate with a dangerous increase in pressue within the skull.

Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), is not linked to an increase of pressure within the skull and usually presents in patients in their sixties and seventies. It happens when there is an increase in the cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. There is usually no known cause although it can be secondary to an infection or head injury.

Patients with NPH have the following three symptoms:

- Problems with their walking, including falling, freezing and shuffling,
- Incontinence, mainly urinary but occasionally faecal
- memory problems which may include loss of speech, loss of memory, mood changes, difficulty with reasoning and abnormal behaviour

Patients are can be misdiagnosed as having Parkinson's Disease or Alzheimer's as symptoms can be similar.

What does treatment involve?

Normal Pressure Hydrocephelus can not be cured as such but it can be controlled by an operation to insert a shunt into the brain which then drains off the excess fluid. The shunt usually terminates in the abdomen where the fluid is reabsorbed into the body.

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