On Wednesday, November 24, 2015, NBC’s Chicago Med aired an episode which highlighted Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH). The episode told the story of a woman who presented with mild dementia and an injured arm. After recalling her fall to Dr. Daniel Charles, played by Oliver Platt, which she claimed to be caused by clumsy walking, he immediately asked her to walk for him. He recognized the symptom of magnetic gait, one of the three most common symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus, in addition to mild dementia and incontinence. What had appeared to be Alzheimer’s upon arrival to the ER quickly turned into tests to confirm normal pressure hydrocephalus.
The story takes the viewer through the diagnostic test of a lumbar puncture to determine if removing fluid on the brain will alleviate the symptoms and help to determine if the patient is a candidate for a permanent shunt to treat her normal pressure hydrocephalus. The show highlights the common missed recognition of the condition, often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed in up to 80% of the estimated 700,000 seniors living with the condition in the United States.
The Hydrocephalus Association is grateful to the producers and writers for providing an eloquently simple yet informative explanation of hydrocephalus for the millions of viewers that watch the show. This message comes at a critical time, as the baby boomer population, currently projected at 74.9 million, are in the age window where NPH generally presents itself. Studies have found that 10 – 15% of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, in fact have NPH. It is the hope of the Hydrocephalus Association that this public spotlight on NPH encourages individuals to learn more about the condition. For those individuals who feel they may have a family member misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia or who notice any of the three most common symptoms of NPH, we encourage them to contact the association for more information as well as to speak to their doctor about screening for NPH.
Resources on Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
Click here to watch Chicago Med, Season 1, Episode 2, iNO, or click on the video share below.