Andrew's hydrocephalus surgery story

Andrews story Andrews hydrocephalus surgery story.jpg

Andrew Vago, 79, had been suffering from urinary incontinence for 10 years and also noticed a steady decline in his balance. He struggled to go up and down steps and he began to use a walking stick to help get around. His walking got worse over time and he lost strength in his left leg.

An accurate diagnosis

Andrew was referred for an MRI scan of his brain in 2021, which confirmed a diagnosis of normal pressure hydrocephalus. 

Hydrocephalus is where there is a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. The excess fluid puts pressure on the brain, which can damage it. There are three different types of hydrocephalus: congenital hydrocephalus; acquired hydrocephalus; and normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Normal pressure hydrocephalus is uncommon and usually only develops in people aged over 60. Its main symptoms are mobility problems, impairment of memory and urinary incontinence.

Andrew recalls, “Before the diagnosis, I hadn’t connected the urinary incontinence with my walking problems.”

Lumbar drainage

Andrew was given a lumbar drainage trial to see whether draining some of his cerebrospinal fluid would relieve his symptoms. He noticed an improvement in both his walking and urinary incontinence for three days after having the lumbar drainage.

He then came to see Mr Neil Dorward, Consultant Neurosurgeon at The Wellington Hospital. Mr Dorward recommended that he have a shunt inserted as a next step. Shunt insertion is a surgical procedure where a thin tube is implanted in the brain to drain away excess cerebrospinal fluid.

Andrew's surgery

Andrew decided to go ahead with the shunt surgery and he was booked in for his operation at The Wellington Hospital on 11th October 2021. Mr Dorward performed the surgery and Andrew made a rapid recovery. Two days after the operation, he was walking around the ward unaided and was able to go home. 

He says: “Mr Dorward knew my problem right away and suggested the shunt. I was very pleased with my care at The Wellington Hospital. The shunt is a very stable system and I hardly notice it – it’s just a bump in my head. 

I no longer use a stick to walk and I can now go out for walks, to the cinema, to restaurants. It’s made an enormous difference to my life. I wish I’d had it fitted years ago.” 

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