Post-mortem findings in 10 patients with presumed normal-pressure hydrocephalus and review of the literature

Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2012 Feb;38(1):72-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2990.2011.01195.x.


Aims: Neuropathological features of idiopathic normal-pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH) are poorly characterized. Brain biopsy during life may help in the differential diagnosis of dementia, but post-mortem validation of biopsy findings is scarce. Here we review and report brain biopsy and post-mortem neuropathological findings in patients with presumed NPH.

Methods: We evaluated 10 patients initially investigated by intraventricular pressure monitoring and a frontal cortical biopsy for histological and immunohistochemical assessment as a diagnostic procedure for presumed NPH.

Results: Out of the 10 patients, eight were shunted and seven benefited. Until death, six had developed severe and two mild cognitive impairment. One was cognitively unimpaired, and one was mentally retarded. Three subjects displayed amyloid-β (Aβ) aggregates in their frontal cortical biopsy obtained at the initial procedure. One of these patients developed Alzheimer's disease during a follow-up time of nearly 10 years. One patient with cognitive impairment and NPH suffered from corticobasal degeneration. In six patients various vascular lesions were seen at the final neuropathological investigation. Five of them were cognitively impaired, and in four vascular lesions were seen sufficient in extent to be considered as causative regarding their symptoms.

Conclusions: The frequent finding of vascular pathology in NPH is intriguing, suggesting that vascular alterations might be causative of cognitive impairment in a notable number of patients with NPH and dementia. Brain biopsy can be used to detect Aβ aggregates, but neuropathological characteristics of iNPH as a distinct disease still need to be discovered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autopsy
  • Blood Vessels / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus, Normal Pressure / pathology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male