Brains at Work
This former Inova physician was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) and received life-altering brain surgery at Inova Loudoun Hospital
To say that Gregory Bentz, MD, PhD, was in great health at age 67 is an understatement. An avid runner, the retired Inova physician spent his days training for his 10th marathon. That year, he decided to do a good deed and donate blood. It was a fateful decision.
“They tested the blood and found that I had a profound medical issue,” he says. “It was shocking.”
Dr. Bentz was diagnosed with a condition that required a bone marrow transplant and, as a result, he developed numbness and tingling in his feet. When he saw a neurologist about the problem, an MRI revealed Dr. Bentz was also suffering from normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), a treatable condition of the brain which usually affects people 60 years of age and older. He knew where to go for help – and the timing was just right.
“Inova Loudoun Hospital was just starting its neurosurgical program and mine would be the first brain surgery at Inova Loudoun Hospital,” he says. “I wanted to be that guy. Inova is a great place to be a doctor, but it’s a wonderful place to be a patient.”
NPH is a type of fluid buildup in the brain, which causes pressure and can ultimately stretch the brain and neurons that control balance, bladder, memory and thought processes. Dr. Bentz’s surgeon, board-certified neurosurgeon Nilesh Vyas, MD, notes that NPH symptoms can often be attributed to “normal aging” processes that actually aren’t normal at all.
Memory loss, difficulty walking and loss of bladder control are most commonly associated with NPH. Because many of these symptoms are similar to the early onset of dementia, patients are sometimes misdiagnosed or do not seek treatment. “The earlier you can identify this condition, the better recovery will be,” says Dr. Vyas. “That’s why, whenever you have memory problems, you should see a doctor.”
“The earlier you can identify this condition, the better recovery will be,” says Dr. Vyas. “That’s why, whenever you have memory problems, you should see a doctor.”
The procedure for NPH is a two-step process that involves a hospital stay to drain spinal fluid for a few days to see if it alleviates symptoms. If so, a surgeon will put a shunt into the brain to reduce fluid buildup.
“This is low-risk brain surgery with minimal pain,” Dr. Vyas says. “You can go home the next day and return to normal activities within a week or two.”
After having the surgery in early 2016, Dr. Bentz has been recovering nicely. He’s not quite ready for 10 more marathons yet, but he’s grateful for this life-altering surgery.
“If you don’t address NPH, it can get much worse and lead to some scary outcomes,” he says. “I’m grateful that we caught it when we did, and that I’m back to my old, healthy self.”
Are you concerned about Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH)?
Call 703-858-8832 to speak with our service line nurse leader and to schedule a consultation for Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH).
Learn more about the Inova Neuroscience & Spine Institute’s expertise in neurology, neurosurgery, movement disorders and more at www.inova.org/neuro.