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VCU researcher leads international team in developing guidelines for treating hydrocephalus

RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 20, 2005) An international team of medical experts led by a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher has established the first clinical guidelines to help improve the diagnosis and treatment of people with normal pressure hydrocephalus, a debilitating condition in the brain that often goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.

The international advisory panel led by Anthony Marmarou, Ph.D., professor of neurosurgery and director of research in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine's Department of Neurosurgery, developed the guidelines for normal pressure hydrocephaly, NPH, which appeared as a supplement to the September edition of Neurosurgery, the official, peer-reviewed journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

"NPH was first identified in the mid-1960s," said Marmarou. "Since that time, there have been several thousand articles published in the field. We've taken all this information and reached consensus on how to diagnose and treat these patients."

The new guidelines deal exclusively with idiopathic NPH, the form of NPH that develops from no known cause. Doctors are advised of which tests to use to make a diagnosis and how to determine if treatment with a shunt a flexible tube and valve will help reverse or improve the condition. NPH is treated with the surgical implantation of a shunt that drains excess fluid from the brain and relieves pressure in the skull.

"In the early days doctors were reluctant to treat NPH because they didn't think treatment would help," he said. "We now have evidence that shows a combination of diagnostic tests can predict 90 percent of the time if a patient will respond to a shunt."

According to the guidelines, physicians should carefully review the patient's clinical history and conduct a physical exam and other diagnostic procedures including brain imaging with the use of a magnetic resonance imaging (MR
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Contact: Joe Kuttenkuler
jpkutten@vcu.edu
804-828-6607
Virginia Commonwealth University
20-Sep-2005


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