Health Check: Normal pressure hydrocephalus

Roberta Healy waited years for a correct diagnosis of normal pressure hydrocephalus.

It's been almost a year since Roberta Healy has been in to see Dr. Petra Klinge at Rhode Island Hospital.

It was Klinge who two-and-a-half years ago diagnosed Healy with normal pressure hydrocephalus. Healy went for years misdiagnosed.

"I saw my first neurologist in 2000," Healy said.

Her first symptoms were unsettling.

"My balance was slipping. My gait was slipping. My smarts were slipping," Healy said.

Then she developed problems controlling her urine.

"They would say things like, 'Well, it could be a Parkinson-like syndrome. It could be Alzheimer's. It could be depression,'" Healy said.

"It's often mistaken because the symptoms that you see are gait problems, unsteadiness, balance problems, which you see in Parkinson's. And then when it comes to the problems with their memory, they forget. They start to be slow in their thought process," Klinge said.

Klinge said when she first saw Healy, she was almost about to go into a nursing home.

"She had problems maintaining her own household," Klinge said.

But a correct diagnosis of normal pressure hydrocephalus and treatment, which involved a shunt or tube being placed to drain the excess fluid from her brain, changed everything.

Healy's symptoms went away. That was back in October 2010.

"Oh, I was back to normal as soon as I got back in to my room at the hospital," Healy said. "I say to people it was like someone flipped a switch and made me normal again."

It's getting that correct diagnosis that is so important so it can be treated appropriately.