Home > Celebrities, Medical issues, Types of dementia > Dementia and the Rock Star

Dementia and the Rock Star

If you’ve listened to popular music stations in the last 50 years, you’ve probably heard the work of Dick Wagner, but haven’t realized it.  He has played lead guitar on over 200 award-winning albums.  Artists he has performed with include such wide-ranging talent as Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Meat Loaf, KISS, Aerosmith, and Guns & Roses, and a multitude of others.  He co-wrote most of Alice Cooper’s songs.  And in 2010, Gibson.com listed him as performing one of the top 50 guitar solos of all time.  And he also recently underwent treatment for Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, one of the forms of dementia which is considered treatable.

In 2007, Wagner had a stroke and a heart attack, which left him with a paralyzed left arm.  He figured that his performing career was over.  But that wasn’t the end of his problems.  As he worked through his rehabilitation, he began to experience mental confusion and gait abnormalities.  He fell more than once, and required surgery for a blood clot.

However, in 2011, Wagner was diagnosed as having Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH), caused by an accumulation of spinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain.  As the amount of fluid builds up, there is increased pressure on nerves that control the legs, the bladder, and cognitive function.  He underwent surgery at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, where doctors inserted a shunt in his head, which redirected the fluid through a tube under the skin into the abdominal cavity.  This drainage will continue every day for the duration of his life.

And now, Wagner is playing guitar again, and is back on tour with a band.

It has been estimated that five percent of all persons with dementia actually have NPH.  This adds up to between 200,000 and 400,000 Americans.  And this number is on the rise.  It is frequently misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease because of the particular symptoms that are seen.  These include difficulty walking, memory problems, and urinary urgency.  Often these symptoms are overlooked as being typical of the aging process, or are misdiagnosed as another form of dementia which is not reversible.  By the time it is recognized as NPH, it is often too late to correct the problem.

Read more about Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus:  What is Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus and A Missed Diagnosis.

Read the original news story which inspired me here.

Visit Dick Wagner’s website here.


  1. January 20, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    more confusion… and good on Dick Wagner for getting on with life!

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