[Normal pressure hydrocephalus]

J M Lieb, C Stippich, F J Ahlhelm
Der Radiologe 2015, 55 (5): 389-96

CLINICAL ISSUE: Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a disorder found mainly in the elderly (> 60 years) with an increasing prevalence with age and is one of the few treatable causes of dementia. If untreated NPH often leads to severe motor, psychomotor and irreversible cognitive deficits. The pathogenesis is not yet fully understood. Clinical symptoms consist of the (not always complete) classical triad of equilibrium and gait disturbances followed later by incontinence and dementia. Symptoms often show a gradual progression to irreversibility in non-treated patients; therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are mandatory. Important differential diagnoses are Parkinson's disease (similar gait), Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, not least due to the high comorbidity of these conditions with NPH.

STANDARD RADIOLOGICAL METHODS: The standard radiological method for evaluation of NPH is conventional cross-sectional imaging that typically shows ventriculomegaly (Evans' index > 0.3 and cella media index < 4) often combined with the so-called disproportionately enlarged subarachnoid space hydrocephalus (DESH) pattern (tight convexity sulci and enlarged sylvian fissure). These findings should be differentiated from ventriculomegaly in atrophy combined with enlarged convexity sulci.

METHODICAL INNOVATIONS: Special magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques can be used to evaluate cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow but are not yet part of the diagnostic guidelines.

ACHIEVEMENTS/PRACTICAL RECOMMENDATIONS: Combined with cross-sectional imaging, well-established clinical and invasive diagnostic tests, such as repeated spinal tap or lumbar drainage with re-evaluation of clinical symptoms lead to a diagnosis and help with preoperative patient selection for CSF diversion. Ventriculoperitoneal CSF shunting has proven to be safe and is the only known successful therapy for NPH.

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