More than 5 million Americans suffer from dementia and for the overwhelming majority there is no cure. 

But a sliver of that population – perhaps as little as 1 percent – can be treated effectively by a team at  Providence Saint John’s Health Center’s Adult Hydrocephalus and Neuroendoscopy Center for a condition called normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Neurosurgeon Garni Barkhoudarian, M.D., and neurologist Daniel Franc, M.D., have established a treatment center for patients diagnosed with NPH –  one of the few treatable causes of dementia. This condition results from a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid and most frequently affects the elderly. These patients typically experience walking or balance difficulties, incontinence and memory problems. NPH is difficult to diagnose and many elderly patients are under diagnosed. Treating NPH early can, in some cases, restore cognition, keep patients ambulatory and restore continence.

The new Adult Hydrocephalus and Neuroendoscopy Center will provide an objective, systematic course of treatment and follow-up for these patients. Metrics will be compiled to help measure and monitor progress. The program at Providence Saint John’s will provide expertise and research in the community, making it simple for patients to be treated and return for follow-up visits.

While Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus is more common in the elderly, patients in their 70s and 80s, other types of hydrocephalus can occur in younger adults. Causes include tumors, infection and congenital abnormalities.  In general, there are two standard courses of treatment – the surgical placement of a shunt to drain cerebrospinal fluid to the abdomen where it is absorbed or the creation of a bypass within the brain using an endoscope introduced through a small opening in the head.

The Adult Hydrocephalus and Neuroendoscopy Center involves a multidisciplinary team at Providence Saint John’s Health Center that offers the community therapy for a reversible cause of dementia as well as minimally invasive treatments for adult hydrocephalus.