Shunt surgery improves dementia patients' memory and walking ability, researchers say

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Researchers in Sweden say they have become the first in the world to show that a shunt operation with a placebo control can help patients suffering from dementia.

The investigators, from the University of Gothenburg and Sahlgrenska University Hospital, implanted shunts in 14 people who suffer from dementia caused by hydrocephalus and white matter changes. Half of the patients received a functioning shunt while the other half were given non-functioning shunts—the placebo group. Patients who were given the functional shunts showed immediate improvements in cognitive functioning and walking ability. The group that received the faulty shunts experienced improvements when the shunts were made functional after a three-month period.

"Shunt operations have long been used for hydrocephalus, but this study offers more scientifically conclusive results to support the effect of the treatment, and also shows that shunt operations can help far more patients than previously believed with their walking and memory," researcher Magnus Tisell said. The study was published in the Journal of Neurosurgery.