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Alzheimer's diagnosis often wrong

People in Massachusetts concerned with Alzheimer's may be interested to hear of a case involving a 72-year-old man diagnosed with the disease and in severe decline. He was confined to a wheelchair, incontinent and unable to read or even converse. All believed he would continue the slow decline, except his wife. She did not believe he had Alzheimer's disease, so she arranged for a second opinion. Doctors discovered that the man had normal pressure hydrocephalus, a little known and highly treatable disease.

Experts believe that NPH is due to the accumulation of excess fluid in the brain. The condition is treated by draining the extra fluid with shunts. Now the man, who was confined to a nursing home and who had deteriorated so badly, has recovered dramatically. He is back in his home and able to move around on his own.

Experts think that 5 to 10 percent of patients diagnosed with dementia actually have NPH, an easily treatable and reversible condition. A recent study showed that up to 30 percent of doctors have never heard of NPH, so misdiagnosis is common. The most common symptoms of NPH are problems with walking, memory and incontinence. Now some doctors are recommending that the families should seek a second opinion when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. They may also ask for a NPH screening. The condition can be recognized with a CT scan or MRI.

The misdiagnosed man suffered incontinence, confinement to a wheelchair and was unable to read or converse. Doctors should be more informed in order to be able to prevent such needless suffering. A medical malpractice attorney may be able to negotiate the proper compensation for families that have suffered due to a doctor's negligence.

Source: Here and Now, "When It’s Not Alzheimer's: Little-Known Illness Mimics Dementia", August 14, 2013

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