Frenchay Hospital leads awareness of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

An animation has been made to tell people about the symptoms of a condition that is often mistaken for dementia.

Frenchay Hospital has been involved in a campaign to educate the public and healthcare professionals about a medical condition called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH).

In partnership with the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (ASBAH), the animation is aimed at people over sixty years old - the age group most likely to develop the condition.

The condition is caused by an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles (cavities) of the brain.

The symptoms of NPH include difficulty in walking, short-term memory loss and urinary incontinence.

There can also be problems with balance, causing people to fall backwards.

These symptoms are sometimes assumed to be the untreatable effects of old age but when people are diagnosed with NPH early enough there is a good chance that they can get effective treatment.

Richard Edwards, consultant neurosurgeon at Frenchay Hospital, is at the forefront of work to treat NPH said when people receive treatment it can be life-changing.

He said: “In some cases, where nursing home admission previously seemed inevitable, patients are delighted to find that, thanks to the treatment, they are able to remain living in their own home.”

The Bristol School of Animation at the University of the West of England created a 30 second animation, showing the key symptoms of NPH.

It is planned that this animation will be broadcast in the waiting rooms of 37 GP surgeries in the Bristol area.

Carole, from Bristol, who has NPH, said: “I was lucky that I was diagnosed before my condition really deteriorated. Even so, I had already had some dangerous falls.

“Once I fell backwards on to my car, another time I fell in the garden and just managed to crawl back into the house.

“Thank goodness my GP had heard about NPH and recognised the symptoms.

“I was treated at Frenchay Hospital and now I am able to get out and about safely again. I hate to think that there are people out there with similar symptoms without knowing why.

“It is great that ASBAH is running this campaign.”

Julia Cross, whose husband has NPH, said: “I want everyone to know the symptoms of NPH as this will help people to get an early diagnosis.

“The doctors at Frenchay Hospital helped my husband and this campaign should mean they will help more people in future.

“Dementia is hot news at the moment as we are just beginning to see what a problem it is going to be as the population gets older.

“NPH is one possible cause of dementia and it should be publicised alongside Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.”