Rock star Dick Wagner's curable dementia with 'normal pressure hydrocephalus'

dick-wagner-rock-star-dementia.jpgDick Wagner, a guitarist who has played for Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and KISS, reveals to ABC News that he suffered from a stroke and a heart attack in 2007.

"I woke up from a coma after two weeks with a paralyzed left arm. My profession as a guitarist, I thought was over," says Wagner.

Rehabilitation was a long, hard road, which was made even harder as Wagner began experiencing mental fogginess and something wrong with his walk.

"I couldn't turn to the left as I walked, only to the right, and I would do a spiral and fall," says Wagner. "I fell completely flat on my face in the driveway on the concrete. I didn't know what had happened to me."

A fall by his pool caused a blood clot and required surgery. Wagner was eventually diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), which causes a build-up of spinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain, putting pressure on the nerves that control the legs, the bladder and one's cognitive function. NPH often mimics the dementia of Alzheimer's and the impaired motor skills of Parkinson's.

According to Dr. Joseph M. Zambramski, who placed a shunt in Wagner to relieve the build-up of spinal fluid, an estimated 5 percent of dementia patients actually have NPH, which is correctable.

"I am like a new man almost overnight. For five years, I couldn't even pick up a guitar -- I didn't have the strength or the coordination," says Wagner.

It is estimated that several hundred thousand Americans suffer from NPH, which is diagnosed via a CT scan or an MRI, followed by a spinal tap to drain fluid from the brain. If the patient's condition improves, NPH is the likely cause.

The reason NPH is so easy to misdiagnose is because the majority of symptoms -- difficulty walking, failing memory and urinary urgency -- are also symptoms of old age.

But now Wagner, thanks to the proper diagnosis, has regained his fine motor skills and corrected his balance problem. He is now on tour in Denmark.
Photo/Video credit: ABC News
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