Falls and Fear of Falling in Shunted Idiopathic Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Neurosurgery 89:122–128, 2021

Gait and balance impairment are typical symptoms of idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (INPH), implicating that falls may afflict these patients.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate falls, related injuries, and associated psychological features, before and after shunt surgery for INPH and compared to the general population.

METHODS: The study included 176 patients shunted for INPH and 368 age- and sexmatched controls. Falls, fear of falling (FOF), fall-related injuries (mild-severe), confidence in avoiding falls (Swedish Falls Efficacy Scale (FES(S)), quality of life (QoL; EuroQoL 5-dimension 5 level instrument), and symptoms of depression (Geriatric Depression Scale 15) were investigated. Pre- and postoperative observational times were 12 mo before surgery and 21 mo after (mean). Recurrent fallers fell ≥2 times.

RESULTS: More INPH patients than controls were recurrent fallers (67% vs 11%; P < .001). They feared falling more often (FOF, mean   standard deviation: 3.3   1.1 vs 1.6   0.9; P < .001) and had lower confidence in avoiding falls (FES(S) 78   40 vs 126   14; P < .001). After surgery, INPH patients improved in all parameters but they did not reach the levels of the controls. Among fallers there was no difference between patients and controls in the severity of injuries suffered. Low QoL and symptoms of depression were more common among recurrent fallers than one-time or nonfallers in both shunted patients and controls (P ≤ .001).

CONCLUSION: Falls, FOF, and low confidence in avoiding falls are considerable problems in INPH that may be reduced by shunt surgery. We suggest that remaining risk of falling and preventative measures are routinely considered in postoperative follow-ups and rehabilitation planning.