Better, Faster, Smarter

Shunt surgery shown to make certain dementia patients faster, smarter

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In a placebo-controlled study, researchers in Sweden have shown that an operation can help patients who have dementia caused by white matter changes and hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid inside the skull).

A total of seven patients in the study received functioning shunts (which relieve increased pressure inside the skull due to excess cerebrospinal fluid on the brain), while seven patients in a control group received a non-functioning, closed shunt.

The study found mental capabilities and motor function increased tangibly after having functioning shunts inserted. But mental capabilities and motor function improved in the control group only when the non-functioning shunts were opened.

Shunt operations have long been used for treatment in patients with hydrocephalus, but, according to lead researcher Magnus Tisell, docent at the Sahlgrenska Academy and consultant neurosurgeon at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, the surgery should be considered for white matter changes and hydrocephalus dementia patients to help improve cognitive and motor function, provided that further trials validate this study's findings.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in the U.S., affecting an estimated five million Americans. Azheimer's, a progressive and fatal disease, killed more than 65,000 Americans in 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vascular dementia, resulting from stroke, and Lewy body disease are other forms of the disease.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 26, 2011
Last Updated:
January 26, 2011