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Cambridge ‘REVERT’ dementia clinic in international spotlight

Thirty-six people who feared they may be suffering from dementia have received life-changing surgery since the opening of a new clinic at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, an international conference will hear on Monday (13 March).

A further 12 are on the surgery list, waiting times for help have been slashed by 37 per cent, and a total of 112 patients have been referred and reviewed in clinic since it launched in June last year, guests at Homerton College will learn.

The aim of Monday’s event is to highlight the impact of a little known condition called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH), which is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimers, but can be reversed with a valve - called a shunt – which is inserted in the brain.

The ‘Innovation and Transformation Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus Symposium’ will spotlight the success of the Reversible Dementia Project (REVERT), funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

It is a cross-border collaboration between the UK and France led by the University of Cambridge, and more than 20 experts from Europe are presenting at the conference.

Left to right are: Indu Lawes ((Lead CSF Nurse Specialist), Toby Meek (Specialist Physiotherapist), Alexis Joannides (Consultant Neurosurgeon) and Lisa Healy (Clinical Neuropsychologist)
The Cambridge Revert Team consisting of (left to right): Indu Lawes ((Lead CSF Nurse Specialist), Toby Meek (Specialist Physiotherapist),- Alexis Joannides (Consultant Neurosurgeon) and Lisa Healy (Clinical Neuropsychologist)

Addenbrooke’s consultant neurosurgeon, and REVERT clinical lead, Mr Alexis Joannides, will describe how his clinic - a multi-disciplinary ‘one-stop-shop’ for suspected NPH sufferers – has helped to transform not only the lives of those who experience the condition, but also the lives of their loved ones.

Patients thought to have NPH have advanced diagnostics including a specialised brain MRI and lumbar infusion study pioneered by the Brain Physics Laboratory in Cambridge.

It involves putting fluid into the spine via a needle and calculating the resistance of cerebrospinal fluid leaving the brain. If the tests are consistent with NPH, then surgery may be considered to insert a shunt.

Alexis Joannides in theatre
Mr Alexis Joannides in surgery

Mr Joannides and colleagues have seen some “miraculous results” and are hoping to get NHS support as REVERT funding draws to a close.

He said:

We have seen some amazing results in this country, and in Europe, and the symposium is a way of showcasing these and discussing a wide range of initiatives aimed at improving patient care, and knowledge sharing.

Mr Alexis Joannides

One success was grandmother Jackie Middleditch, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, who post-treatment overcame incontinence, confusion and an inability to stand - and went back to gardening, walking, and playing with her grandchildren

At the time Jackie – who made TV, radio and newspaper headlines - said of Addenbrooke’s:

They have given me the gift of new life.

Jackie Middleditch

The Hydrocephalus Association estimates that nearly 700,000 adults have the NPH, but less than 20 per cent are diagnosed. Anyone who wants to learn more about REVERT, which is funded by ERDF via the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme should visit REVERT project (opens in a new tab).