Rock Star’s “Dementia” Cured With Simple Surgery

    January 17, 2013
    Amanda Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Rock star Dick Wagner, who played guitar throughout the ’70s with bands like KISS, Aerosmith, and Alice Cooper, was devastated when he began showing signs of dementia. In 2007, at the age of 65, he suffered both a stroke and a heart attack, and soon after began having trouble walking and focusing his thoughts. It only got worse over time, despite his hard work at rehabilitation, and he began to mourn the loss of his talent for guitar. He thought he’d never be able to play again.

But after being referred to a neurologist in 2011, Wagner was diagnosed with something called NPH (normal pressure hydrocephalus), which is a buildup of spinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain. The excess fluid puts pressure on the nerves and can cause bladder malfunction and all manner of problems with motor skills. With a simple surgery to insert a shunt, Wagner says he became a new man.

“The stroke he suffered usually produces relatively mild deficits, and over time patients are able to resume most normal activities,” Dr. Joseph Zabramski said. “Dick cannot raise his left arm as well as he used to, but his fine motor function in his left hand is excellent. Music is Dick’s life and so he tried to resume playing but couldn’t. Once we had the shunt in place I saw the improvements. … Gradually, much to my pleasure, the old Dick Wagner returned.”

While the shunt surgery is not for everyone–doctors say less than five percent of people diagnosed with dementia actually have NPH–it can make a huge difference for those who are good candidates.

“He told me with big tears in his eyes that he wouldn’t be able to play guitar anymore,” Zabramski said. “His manager was just about ready to say, ‘Dick, this is it.’ We put a shunt in and the guy’s playing again, flying around the world and producing records [on his independent label Desert Dreams Records] and playing in concerts again. It made a remarkable difference in his life.”

  • bonnie

    My mother was diagnosed with communicating hydracephlus, similiar to NPH. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but we knew something else was terribly wrong. So, after 3 different doctors she received the proper diagnosis and had the shunt surgery. She had done very well for quite a few years. She passed away just this past December 28 at the age of 78. She had the surgery in 2005 but we do not know how many years the pressure was building until it manifested itself and there was damage done that could not be reversed. The way it is diagnosed is by tapping the spinal fluid and observing to see if the conditions improve, very tricky. Thanks to the chair of neurology at Temple University Hospital she was properly diagnosed. My advice-if you think it could be NPH don’t settle for one opinion – get two or perhaps 3 much like we pursued. If not for the third and accurate diagnosis, Mom would not have survived as long as she did. Her quality of life improved dramatically after the shunt surgery.

  • http://ms1.gotdns.com jonny rocket

    yup kids. see what drugs do to you?

    • Mike

      What a jackass thing to say. You know NOTHING about Dick or his lifestyle. I don’t know whether he did drugs or not…but I would never presume to announce to the world that his NPH was caused by drug use.

  • http://yahoo chuck jones

    i see a great musician gunned down. the likes of 1 of the best making a comeback like this makes me feel so good inside. because in 2009 i also had a stroke on my leftside that made it real hard for me too play my guitar but good rehab. got me back congrats. the legend lives on

  • Wendy Barnes

    NPH or Hydrocephalus occurring after age 55 or 60 happens to anyone for as of now mostly unknown reasons. It is not as uncommon as you may think. This needs to be ruled out in anyone in this age group who shows a very rapid decline in cognitive and some motor skills. Rule out stroke,carotid artery occlusion and any other brain/lung/heart issue. Role out hydrocephalus before you let the MD start a bunch of “Alzheimer’s/dementia” meds.

  • Tom

    Dick Wagner’s been a guitar hero of mine since the Lou Reed and early Alice Cooper work he did. I’m glad he is getting the help he needed and that he’s going to be back at what he loves and excels at.

  • Sandra Brown

    I had a head stroke 3 yrs ago,do well except memory, require assistance with the memory part of grocery shopping,etc.. W/o meds would not be this good! have no drivers’ license pretty much homebound…..Got any clues?

  • Autumn

    My brother had this surgery, an out of date shunt was used because the ‘neurosurgeons’ did not have access to the new one that regulates. The shunt made him worse, drugs sent him into seizures and hallucinations.. off. Five more holes drilled into his head and then the shunt blocked off to save his life. Wife fired that bunch… new ones took him off most of the drugs, he came back. Was going to be able to drive again, it was determined that he no longer needed the shunt. Then… one of the new doctors put on a patch that would improve his memory even more. Within a half hour he was going back downhill. within a day incontinent, no balance, could do nothing for himself. Patch removed and he is somewhat better… but needs a walker again, dozes most of the time… cannot focus… Be very careful of who your surgeons are and what version they are implanting if you choose this.

    • http://Yahoo Saudra Adams

      I understand what you are going through. My son at 18 months had a tumor removed the size of a golf ball and had grown out with things that looked like spider legs. The surgery went fine, but the side effects were terrible, a rash, high fever, blood clot in right leg, couldn’t desolve it because the steriods they gave him to take down the swelling in his brain, caused internal bleeding and he was bleeding to death. They never said anything to me about seizures and the seizures came and last for closed to 8 years, when I accidentally mis-layed his medicine during a move, I began to see a major improvement in his condition, gradually cut his medicine down and took him to the doctor who chewed me out for taking him down slowly off of his medicine, telling me I could have killed him, finally admitted that the medicine he was on produced seizures if his body no longer needed the medication. My son is now a man in his thirties, all of his top teeth rotten and crumbled out of his mouth, this was due to the medication and radiation he had received as a baby. Doctors mean well but they are very frustrating. I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on my worst enemy. A shunt was never done, because he had done so poorly out of surgery, they did 13 spinal taps in one day instead.

  • Autumn

    To Sandra Brown…
    I have used Gingko Biloba for help with memory for several years. It helps with numbers, names and what I read five minutes ago… I can think of something we need and remember it to add to my list later if I am not by pen and paper… works for me. Natures Way is a trusted brand if I am allowed to recommend on here.

  • Ilene Ragland

    Rock on dude! I’m near your age so believe me it’s good news to hear that sometimes miracles happen to us. glad you’re able to play again.