Anesthesia and Cognition Impairment Report

While surgery is very common, patients sometimes fear that they will experience some type of future impairment because of an operation. Many elderly patients may even opt out of having a procedure that will give them a better quality of life because they are worried having surgery that requires anesthesia may lead to cognition impairment. A new study, however, hopes to prove just the opposite.

Cognitive Test Results of Twins

The University of Southern Denmark has recently released results from their study that examined a total of 8503 twins. Of these twins, 4299 were under the age of 70 and the remaining 4204 were over the age of 70. Cognitive tests of twins that had undergone surgery requiring anesthesia within the past 18-24 years were compared to test results of twins who had not had any type of surgical procedure.

Results showed that twins who had undergone surgery in recent years had slightly lower scores on cognitive tests, however, researchers stated that the differences were not statistically significant.

Unni Dokkedal, from The University of Southern Denmark, said, “Our use of twins in the study provides a powerful approach to detect subtle effects of surgery and anesthesia on cognitive functioning by minimizing the risk that the true effects of surgery and anesthesia are mixed up with other environmental and genetic factors. We found no significant cognitive effects related to surgery and anesthesia in these patients, suggesting that other factors, such as preoperative cognitive levels and underlying diseases, are more important to cognitive functioning in aging patients following surgery.”

All Part of the Postoperative Puzzle

Postoperative cognitive dysfunction is normal for a short time after a surgery, but this study shows receiving anesthesia alone does not cause cognitive impairment. This leads researchers to focus on other factors that may play a role in postoperative cognitive impairment. A researcher from the study said, “This research has the potential to become a key piece of this very complex research puzzle.”

Researchers believe this information will especially help older patients when faced with the decision of having an operation with anesthesia. Although there may be other factors that cause a person to have some cognitive issues after an operation, patients can have some peace of mind knowing it will not be caused by anesthesia.