Surgery News

Cognitive declines not linked to surgery in older adults, say researchers

March 07, 2016

"This is an important finding for persons with Alzheimer's and their families who may worry that a pending operation could adversely affect the patient's cognitive status" says John C. Morris M.D., the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Distinguished Professor of Neurology and director of the ADRC. "There has been a widespread belief that the memory and thinking abilities of patients with early Alzheimer's disease may worsen as a consequence of surgery, but the evidence from this study does not support that belief."

The investigators say their study, published in the November issue of the journal Anesthesiology, is not the final word on the relationship between surgery and cognitive declines. They believe that some patients may be more vulnerable for genetic reasons or because of how their brains react to surgery or anesthesia. They also excluded cardiac surgery patients from this study because of elevated stroke risk and other risks posed by cardiac surgery that aren't as common in other types of operations. But they say, in general, the findings should be a relief for older people facing surgery.

"An older person should not anticipate cognitive deterioration following surgery," says Avidan. "If you need surgery, and you're elderly, even if you already have some cognitive impairment, whether you decide to have surgery or not should depend on surgical risks and benefits, and not the possibility of cognitive problems."

Source: Washington University School of Medicine