Valley man finds relief from disease that mimics Alzheimer's

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by Brandy Aguilar, Special Projects

azfamily.com

Posted on October 27, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 27 at 12:01 PM

PHOENIX -- “My memory was getting worse overtime,” Ed Stall said.

The last four years have been tough for Stall. Memory loss combined with trouble walking and incontinence made it difficult for the 75-year-old to enjoy golfing and hanging out with family and friends.
  
“I was starting to get concerned about are we heading down the Alzheimer's route,” said Stall’s wife, Betty.

The Stalls were hoping for answers.

“Do we live with what it is or is there help for what it is,” Stall's wife continued.

Stall was diagnosed with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus or NPH. It’s a condition that can be mistaken for Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's.
 
“So you put together this person who walks very slowly, is having difficulty controlling their bladder and now they can't remember exactly what is it they're supposed to do, of course, you start to think of Alzheimer's disease,” Dr. Joseph Zabramski said.

Zabramski is with Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital. NPH is a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid that causes ventricles in the brain to enlarge.

“What happens in NPH is that it appears that the production of the fluid is normal, but the absorption is not normal,” Zabramski said. “So a small amount of excessive fluid builds up over time and this causes damage to those areas surrounding those fluid-filled spaces and produces the symptoms of NPH.”

Those include difficulty walking, urinary problems and mild confusion. To relieve the symptoms, Stall turned to Barrow for a Codman programmable shunt. This drains the excess fluid to relieve pressure in the skull.

“The small amount of fluid can then drain through this tubing into the belly,” Zabramski said. “And just that small amount of fluid will cause the pressure in the brain to go down and relieve the symptoms in a large percentage of patients.”

Now if any pressure adjustments need to be made, it can be done without surgery. This particular shunt lets doctors do that with a magnetic device. Since having his procedure in August, Stall said his life is back on track.
 
“My gait is back, good shape,” Stall said. “My memory, I can say mine hasn't got any worse, but the incontinence is gone.”

“It's a wonderful feeling to know that there was help for him,” Betty said. “Otherwise he would have continued down the road of dementia.”

For more information about NPH, visit www.thebarrow.org.

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