Recovery from normal pressure hydrocephalus is possible with shunt surgery, but improvement varies from person to person. Walking problems, mild dementia, and bladder control issues usually show some improvement within days after surgery. However, it may take weeks or months to achieve the maximum benefit of the surgery.
There is no way to predict how fast, or to what extent, improvement may occur after a shunt is implanted. Some people may recover completely with the help of the shunt, while others may have a recurrence of symptoms.
If symptoms do recur, it may be due to a valve or shunt failure, or the need for a different type of valve. In these instances, NYU Langone doctors can perform surgery to correct the shunt problem.
In the days before and after surgery, people who have a shunt implanted meet with NYU Langone physiatrists—doctors who specialize in rehabilitation medicine—and physical therapists to evaluate the level of care needed during recovery. Many people find physical therapy helpful after surgery to improve their balance and ability to walk.
Walking and balance are typically the first symptoms to improve after surgery. Specialists at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation can help you learn to use a walker or cane, if needed, so you can achieve the most independence possible. Working with a physical therapist, many people see improvement with their walking within a few weeks of shunt surgery.
Memory and thinking skills are often slow to recover after shunt surgery, and some people may be left with cognitive deficits. The experts at Rusk Rehabilitation treat the cognitive challenges associated with normal pressure hydrocephalus through cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapists and neuropsychologists can help people improve their thinking and memory skills, and help them understand and cope with any long-term cognitive deficits they may have acquired.
Rehabilitation may also include working with NYU Langone speech or language pathologists to address speaking difficulties caused by the condition. Our experts can work with you on a variety of communication problems that can arise from normal pressure hydrocephalus, such as articulation difficulties; strength, coordination, and agility of the lips, tongue, and jaw; and communication impairments, such as problems speaking, listening, reading, or writing.
People may also benefit from working with an occupational therapist to address issues of safety, balance, coordination, and improved functioning in the home after surgery. Occupational therapists at Rusk Rehabilitation help people with activities of daily living such as feeding, bathing, grooming, going to the bathroom, dressing, writing, and workplace activities.
Occupational therapists can also provide families with an at-home visit after discharge from the hospital to suggest changes that can make re-entry into the home as easy as possible.
NYU Langone has social workers dedicated to helping those who have normal pressure hydrocephalus and their families cope with the stress. Our licensed clinical social workers can provide psychological and social assessments to help plan for both short- and long-term care.
Outpatient psychological counseling is available to address any concerns related to the social and emotional impacts of normal pressure hydrocephalus and the challenges it may bring for both the patient and their family, including the effects of prolonged caregiving. People who have normal pressure hydrocephalus and their families may also benefit from meeting with our social workers to prepare for post-surgical expectations and develop discharge plans.
NYU Langone social workers can connect people and their families with a variety of community resources, including counseling to address new limitations of living with a chronic condition, planning transportation needs for medical appointments, and coordinating family-care dynamics, such as day-to-day care by family, friends, or caregivers.