Disorder mistaken for dementia can improve with treatment

| Oct 1, 2019 | Failure To Diagnose |

Some people in Iowa could be misdiagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease while actually suffering from a treatable disorder. Memory loss and balance control problems are common symptoms of different types of cognitive disorders, but they are also associated with normal pressure hydrocephalus, or NPH. The cause of the disorder is unknown, and some estimates indicate that around 700,000 people across the country could have it, but only 20% have already been diagnosed correctly. In Canada, it is estimated that 1 in every 200 people age 55 and up could have NPH.

One man noted that he began falling down and losing memory at the age of 69, and he shortly began using a walker and a wheelchair. He did not have a definitive diagnosis but worried that an irreversible decline was taking place. However, a neurologist diagnosed him with NPH, a condition that occurs when too much cerebrospinal fluid collects in the ventricles of the brain. It is connected to a condition called hydrocephalus, usually experienced among newborn babies. Failure to diagnose patients with NPH may lead to them being misdiagnosed with a degenerative cognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s.

Prompt diagnosis with NPH is necessary for successful treatment. A brain shunt can be surgically placed to allow the fluid to drain, improving the symptoms of the condition. However, the success of shunt surgery goes down the longer it takes for people to receive the procedure. A delayed diagnosis could significantly impact a person’s life. Many people might improve if the disorder were more widely known.

Many disorders are affected by the time it takes to treat them; progressive illnesses can grow irreversibly worse after a doctor fails to diagnose them correctly. People who have suffered worsened health due to a doctor error may consult with a medical malpractice lawyer about their options.