Background: Improvement in gait after shunt placement has been well documented in idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH); however, controversy remains regarding the extent and pattern of postsurgical cognitive changes. Conflicting findings may be explained by variability in both test selection and follow-up intervals across studies. Furthermore, most investigations lack a control group, making it difficult to disentangle practice effects from a true treatment effect.
Objective: To examine postshunt changes in a sample of well-characterized iNPH participants compared with a group of age- and education-matched healthy control subjects.
Methods: We identified 12 participants with iNPH undergoing shunt placement and 9 control participants. All participants were evaluated with comprehensive neuropsychological testing and standardized gait assessment at baseline and were followed up for 6 months.
Results: Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed a significant group- (iNPH and control) by-time (baseline and 6 months) interaction for Trailmaking Test B: (P < .003) and Symbol Digit Modalities (P < .02), with greater improvement in iNPH participants relative to control subjects. In addition, the iNPH group showed greater improvement in gait (P < .001) and caregivers reported improved activities of daily living (P < .01) and reduced caregiver distress (P < .01).
Conclusion: This study demonstrates improvements in mental tracking speed and sustained attention 6 months after shunt placement in iNPH. The present investigation is the first study to use a controlled design to show that cognitive improvement in iNPH is independent of practice effects. Furthermore, these findings indicate functional and quality-of-life improvements for both the shunt responder and their caregiver.