Woman's treatable condition misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Woman's treatable condition misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's

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Seventy-one-year-old Fran Rutledge thought she faced a destiny of death by Alzheimer's. Seventy-one-year-old Fran Rutledge thought she faced a destiny of death by Alzheimer's.
Dr. Ilercil re-diagnosed Rutledge with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Dr. Ilercil re-diagnosed Rutledge with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.
NPH symptoms are caused by a build-up of fluid on the brain. NPH symptoms are caused by a build-up of fluid on the brain.
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FLOWOOD, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Seventy-one-year-old Fran Rutledge thought she faced a destiny of death by Alzheimer's.

"My kids were visiting nursing homes to see where they were going to put me," Rutledge said.

Unsteady on her feet, Rutledge fell and fractured two vertebrae. Now, she is thankful that she broke her back. Following the injury, she was referred to the neurosurgeon Dr. Orphan Ilercil, who just happened to address her suspected Alzheimer's diagnosis.

"He said I think you might have something else but we need to pull a spinal tap and see," Rutledge said.

Dr. Ilercil re-diagnosed Rutledge with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, or NPH. He says the primary symptoms are memory loss, difficulty walking and incontinence of urine. The symptoms are caused by a build-up of fluid on the brain.

"You can see water on the brain on CT or MRI scan. But again, before ordering that test or even in the context of interpreting that test, if you don't have that high index of suspicion, some of these patients will be left and considered demented and not treated," Dr. Ilercil said. 

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, because these symptoms are similar to those of other disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease many cases go unrecognized and are never properly treated.

"It's one of the few treatable causes of dementia," Dr. Ilercil said. "I do about a handful of these a year and they add up to quite a number over your career. It's not that common."

Dr. Ilercil put a shunt in Rutledge's brain to drain the excess fluid.

"It runs from up here. There's a tube that runs down my neck and it drains into my abdomen," Rutledge explained.

Now, all the symptoms are gone, and Fran has resumed a life she thought was gone forever. She tells Dr. Ilercil repeatedly how grateful she is.

"You saved my life. Thank you so much. I love you for it," Rutledge said to Ilercil.

To learn more about Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, visit the National Hydrocephalus website. Note that there are several types of Hydrocephalus.

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