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Dr. Barkhourdarian with a patient
September 25, 2020

Patient Story: Happy Days Because of a Hydrocephalus Hero

by Sharmyn McGraw

Abbie, a Beverly Hills, California resident was experiencing alarming deteriorating health with no diagnosis. Then she found neurosurgeon, Dr. Garni Barkhoudarian at Pacific Neuroscience Institute.

In the spring of 2020, Abbie, a 70-year-old healthcare attorney from Beverly Hills, found herself experiencing strange physical symptoms. She had been in general good health and was worried about her worsening condition. “A few months prior to my surgery, I started having trouble walking”, she says. “I also found it difficult at times to make it to the bathroom in time. I assumed it was a back problem but, despite what I tried, I kept getting worse.”

An MRI ruled out any back problems but by this time Abbie was in bad shape. She recalls, “I basically could not walk at all, so my doctor advised me to go to the Emergency Department at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.”

An Accurate Diagnosis

For Abbie, the most frustrating part was getting any kind of diagnosis, as her CT scan and MRI revealed three distinct problems, the most pressing of which were hydrocephalus and an acoustic neuroma – a benign brain tumor. She says, “Luckily the physician on call for my internist called for Dr. Barkhoudarian.”

Garni Barkhoudarian, MD, is an experienced and skilled neurosurgeon at Pacific Neuroscience Institute, located at Providence Saint John’s. As the director of the Pacific Adult Hydrocephalus Center, he has considerable expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from symptoms brought on by hydrocephalus. After a review of Abbie’s imaging studies and a thorough clinical workup, Dr. Barkhoudarian was able to give Abbie the long-awaited definitive diagnosis of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH).

Hydrocephalus is a neurological condition where the fluid-filled compartments of the brain – the ventricles – deep in the brain, aren’t able to drain and circulate the cerebrospinal fluid effectively. The build-up causes the ventricles to swell up within the brain pushing on critical structures and leading to a multitude of neurological symptoms.

A Treatment Plan

“Dr. Barkhoudarian recommended first dealing with my hydrocephalus,” Abbie explained. By putting in a brain shunt to establish proper flow of the cerebrospinal fluid, Dr. Barkhoudarian anticipated that Abbie’s symptoms would resolve.

She agreed to the surgery. “The minute I woke up from the surgery, I felt better,” she remembers. “I spent a couple of days in the hospital and two weeks at a rehabilitation facility. I returned for a repeat scan and to see Dr. Barkhoudarian the day after I was released from rehab and was told that the shunt was working as it was supposed to.”

Needless to say, Abbie was overjoyed, “I can’t say enough about Dr. Barkhoudarian and his nurse practitioner Natasha Cueto. My overall experience has been wonderful. Dr. Barkhoudarian is kind, informative, patient, and obviously, extremely talented.”

Dr. Barkhoudarian heard from Abbie a few weeks later.

“It’s hard to believe that it has been about 5 weeks since my surgery. I am exercising every day and getting stronger. I’m also driving. All this would not have been possible without Dr. Barkhoudarian zeroing in on and performing the shunt procedure.

I’ve been delighted with my experience. Suffice it to say, I would highly recommend Dr. Barkhoudarian and his team at PNI.


Thank you Abbie for this account of your experience!

About the Author

Sharmyn McGraw

Sharmyn McGraw

Sharmyn McGraw is a patient advocate, charismatic professional speaker and published author. She has first-hand experience as a Cushing’s disease survivor and often collaborates with nationally-recognized neuro-endocrine experts, sharing the speaker’s platform while educating patients and doctors about neuroendocrine hormonal disorders and their impact on our health as a nation. Sharmyn facilitates the largest pituitary patient support group in the country for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute.

Last updated: September 29th, 2020