The primary objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), both diagnosed and undiagnosed, among residents of assisted-living and extended-care facilities, by using a practical screening tool. A secondary objective was to evaluate prospectively the diagnosis and outcome of surgical treatment in a subset of patients residing in healthcare facilities who were at risk for idiopathic NPH.
A retrospective chart analysis was performed using the medical records from four nursing homes. The final analysis included 147 patient records. Symptomatology and comorbidity were evaluated, as was the ability to perform activities of daily living. In a subset of 17 patients residing in healthcare facilities, the authors applied a standard idiopathic NPH diagnostic and management protocol and followed up the patients 1 year after treatment.
The estimated incidence of suspected idiopathic NPH among all patients in the retrospective survey ranged from 9 to 14%, depending on the diagnostic criteria used. Among the cohort of 17 patients available for an in-hospital study and 1-year follow up, 11 received shunts and seven of these showed either transient or sustained improvement.
A valid and practical diagnostic method is needed to identify idiopathic NPH accurately before admitting patients to a healthcare facility. Data from a prospective study of 17 patients residing in healthcare facilities indicated that supplementary tests remain predictive of a positive response to shunt insertion but cannot predict whether a favorable outcome will be sustained in a population of patients who have been confined to a wheelchair for a prolonged period of time. This finding supports the notion of a finite window of opportunity for successful treatment of idiopathic NPH and the imperativeness of an early diagnosis.