Launceston's Dr George Razay's dementia study published in British Medical Journal Open

Aussie doctor's dementia study a brain changer

Like a fog lifting from the brain. This was the way a 71-year-old dementia patient described their response to a surgery made possible by Tasmanian medical research.

The brainchild of Launceston General Hospital physician Dr George Razay, the study is changing the way doctors diagnose dementia.

Idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (INPH) is one of the few potentially treatable causes of dementia, however it is difficult to diagnose - particularly in older patients.

With many often misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia, Dr Razay's study has led to a diagnostic tool to help doctors diagnose INPH.

Based on the 408 participants from the state's North and carried out over the past 10 years, this week Dr Razay's findings were published in the British Medical Journal Open.

Groundbreaking: A Clifford Craig funded dementia study led by Launceston General Hospital physician Dr George Razay has been published in the British Medical Journal Open. Picture: Scott Gelston

Groundbreaking: A Clifford Craig funded dementia study led by Launceston General Hospital physician Dr George Razay has been published in the British Medical Journal Open. Picture: Scott Gelston

While previously considered rare, the study found at least 15 per cent of participants with memory problems had INPH.

Once diagnosed, Dr Razay said those who underwent a shunt surgery to drain excess fluid from the brain experienced often remarkable improvements.

"INPH is a condition that's well recognised. People who have dementia, with difficulty walking and incontinence - they have enlarged cavities in the brain called ventricles," he said.

"It can be treated by inserting what we call a shunt.

"Basically if there is a build of fluid in the brain, this provides a track to drain it. What we have shown in this study is the majority of patients improved, not just cognitively, but in balance and urinary incontinence.

"Most importantly, they feel [like] they can do things they have never done before. It's amazing the impact on their quality in life."

Participating patients ranged from 40 to 92 years of age, with more than half improving by at least 50 per cent in a mini-mental state examination.

With 11,000 Tasmanian estimated to be living with dementia, Dr Razay said it was satisfying to now know they could, if correctly diagnosed with INPH, be treated.

This story Aussie doctor's dementia study a brain changer first appeared on The Examiner.