Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: Causes, Treatment

Overview

Hydrocephalus is a condition in which an abnormal amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) accumulates in the ventricles. And normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a type of hydrocephalus. It’s different from other types of hydrocephalus for its slow development and normal pressure in the brain. NPH often affects the parts of brain that control the legs, the bladder, and the “cognitive” mental processes.

Normal pressure hydrocephalus occurs most commonly in people over the age of 60. It is estimated by some experts that NPH affects up to 750,000 people in the U.S, leading to at least 5% of dementia nationwide.

Causes

Researchers haven’t fully known the exact causes of normal pressure hydrocephalus. However, some studies have found that NPH may be related to:

  • weakening of veins
  • swelling of the brain’s white matter

Secondary form NPH is deteriorated by other conditions, including

  • impaired absorption of cerebral spinal fluid
  • hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
  • mass lesions
  • meningitis
  • traumatic brain injury
  • brain infection
  • tumor or complications from surgery

Symptoms

At first, the symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus are very subtle, but they will become noticeable gradually as the disease progresses.

The main symptoms of NPH include:

  • Difficulty walking.
  • Mild dementia.
  • Decline in thinking skills.
  • Loss of bladder control.

Minor symptoms in early NPH include:

  • dizziness
  • difficulty in walking slopes or stairs
  • difficulty in rising or sitting on a chair

Diagnosis

It can be difficult to diagnose normal pressure hydrocephalus at its early stage, because it presents similar symptoms to other diseases. Usually, one or more of the following tests are done for a diagnosis of NPH:

Brain imaging

Like diagnosing any other neurodegenerative disease, imaging tests of the brain are helpful. Examples of these include:

  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • MRI.

Neuropsychological assessment

A mini-mental state examination will be used to test the patient’s cognitive function. Other assessments used to test the patient’s attention and executive function are:

  • digit spat spatial span
  • word fluency test
  • frontal assessment battery tests

Invasive Diagnostic Tests

Invasive diagnostic tests help to confirm the diagnosis of NPH. These tests include:

  • Lumbar tap test
  • Lumbar drainage

Treatment

Currently, there is no any treatment that permanently cures normal pressure hydrocephalus. However, several ways of treatment may help improve the patient’s health.

Surgical treatment

One surgical treatment called cerebrospinal fluid removal test, may provide relief for patients. In this procedure, doctors remove a large amount of spinal fluid from the patient with a shunt in the brain to look for any improvements.

Non-surgical treatment

Although there isn’t any non-surgical treatment that turns out to be effective for patients, they may still try some remedial measures to:

  • relieve mood and behavioral problems
  • cope with physical problems such as incontinence and walking difficulties
  • maximize physical, mental, and social functioning.

Keywords: Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.