Brigham & Women’s Hospital Receives $1 million to Combat Elusive Brain Disorder

What if a common, treatable, but little known disorder was responsible for causing doctors to misdiagnose patients with more serious ailments such as Alzheimer’s or dementia? This disorder is known as normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a NEC member, has received a $1 million donation to further study and disseminate knowledge about NPH to improve the lives of the elderly who may be afflicted by it. The money will be used to establish an Adult Hydrocephalus Program, the first and only in New England.

NPH is a “chronic neurological disorder that usually occurs in older adults and is characterized by walking difficulty, trouble with bladder control and dementia.” The funds to establish the program was donated by the Sontag Foundation, partially due to Rick and Susan Sontag’s personal connection to Brigham and Women’s. Susan Sontag was diagnosed with NPH by Dr. Mark Johnson of BWH and subsequently improved her memory function and was no longer wheelchair bound. The Sontag Foundation’s mission is to make a difference, that one life is capable of helping many; a mission that is certainly in the spirit of Brigham and Women’s goals as well.

“Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School provide an ideal environment to implement the Sontags’ vision of a comprehensive, cutting edge clinical and research center aimed at improving the recognition and treatment of NPH,” Dr. Johnson said in a statement. “Hundreds of thousands of undiagnosed NPH patients and their caregivers stand to benefit from the public outreach, expert care and cutting edge research that their gift has made possible.”

Medical professionals believe that about five to ten percent of the seven million people in the United States who have been diagnosed with dementia actually have NPH. That’s 350,000 to 700,000 people who can be living better lives as a result of a correct diagnosis. The New England Council congratulates Brigham and Women’s Hospital for receiving this donation and wishes them luck in establishing their new program.


Read more in Brigham and Women’s press release or in the Boston Business Journal.

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