I love stories with happy endings. This "medical mystery" had a happy ending because of an astute emergency physician who chose to look differently at a patient long diagnosed with mental health issues. That emergency physician made a life-changing decision for a young 23-year-old patient when she decided to order a head CT scan.
Sandra Boodman, the Washington Post's "Medical Mysteries" columnist tells this remarkable story.
The young patient's mother described to the emergency physician, Dr. Mitchell, her daughter's worsening symptoms over a six-year period, and that brought to mind for Dr. Mitchell a mnemonic she learned in medical school: "wet, wobbly, and wacky" as symptoms of hydrocephalus. Thanks to Dr. Mitchell's assessment that the signs and symptoms compelled the need for the CT scan, her suspicion of hydrocephalus was confirmed. An emergency neuro consult and brain MRI followed which then led to successful endoscopic surgery by a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai. The minimally invasive procedure created a permanent pathway in the young patient's brain to relieve the pressure and allow fluid to drain properly.
Diagnostic imaging is such a powerful tool in its ability to reveal hidden sources of serious conditions and illnesses. In this case, it was not part of the standard treatment plan for a patient diagnosed with mental health issues. Fortunately, remarkable outcomes like this are the consequences of both the technological tools and the practitioners who understand how best to deploy them.