Jul 23, 2016

Does Anesthesia Cause Dementia or Memory Loss in the Elderly?

Does anesthesia increase the odds of developing dementia later in life? Does anesthesia hasten memory loss in persons already living with Alzheimer's and dementia?


Can anesthesia trigger or worsen dementia and Alzheimer's?
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Exposure to general anaesthesia increases the risk of dementia in the elderly by 35% according to a study presented at Euroanaesthesia, the annual congress of the European Society of Anaesthesiology (ESA).


In a previous study Mayo clinic researchers concluded that elderly patients who receive anesthesia are no more likely to develop long-term dementia or Alzheimer’s disease than other seniors.

The senior author of the Mayo report was David Warner at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. Yes, No, Maybe?

There are a few issue here so lets try and untangle them. The research we are referencing here in this article has to do with a single issue -

Does anesthesia increase the odds of developing dementia later in life.


The research at INSERM and University of Bordeaux and indicates that it can.

How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

Here is the Gist of this INSERM research.
  • Exposure to general anaesthesia could increase the risk of dementia in elderly by 35 percent
  • Postoperative cognitive dysfunction, or POCD, could be associated with dementia several years later. POCD is a common complication in elderly patients after major surgery. It has been proposed that there is an association between POCD and the development of dementia due to a common pathological mechanism through the amyloid β peptide.
  • The researchers analysed the risk of dementia associated with anesthesia within a prospective population-based cohort of elderly patients (aged 65 years and over). The team used data from the Three-City study, designed to assess the risk of dementia and cognitive decline due to vascular risk factors. Between 1999 and 2001, the 3C study included 9294 community-dwelling French people aged 65 years and over in three French cities (Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier).
  • Participants aged 65 years and over were interviewed at baseline and subsequently 2, 4, 7 and 10 years after. Each examination included a complete cognitive evaluation with systematic screening of dementia. The data were adjusted to take account of potential confounders such as socioeconomic status and comorbidities.
  • The mean age of participants was 75 years and 62% were women. At the 2-year follow-up, 33% of the participants reported an anaesthesia over the 2 previous years, with 19% reporting a GA and 14% a LRA. A total of 632 (9%) participants developed dementia over the 8 subsequent years of follow-up, among them 284 probable AD and 228 possible AD, and the remaining 120 non-Alzheimer's dementia.
  • The researchers found that demented patients were more likely to have received anaesthesia (37%) than non-demented patients (32%). This difference in anaesthesia was due to difference in numbers receiving general anaesthetics, with 22% of demented patients reporting a GA compared with 19% of non-demented patients. After adjustment, participants with at least one GA over the follow-up had a 35% increased risk of developing a dementia compared with participants without anaesthesia.
Dr Sztark concludes:
"These results are in favour of an increased risk for dementia several years after general anaesthesia. Recognition of POCD is essential in the perioperative management of elderly patients. A long-term follow-up of these patients should be planned."


There is a second issue that can cause confusion. The issue

Does anesthesia hasten memory loss in person already living with Alzheimer's and dementia?


We have a long list of articles on this issue. Here are a few.

Study Links Surgery and Anesthesia With Alzheimer’s

"Although not definitive, this human biomarker study gives some credibility to the notion that anesthesia and surgery produce an inflammatory insult on the brain and accelerate chronic neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's," Eckenhoff added.

Alzheimer's and Anesthesia

Alzheimer's and anesthesia don't mix well. Some physicians are advising their patients that are already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to avoid surgery unless absolutely necessary.

Dementia and Memory Loss Caused by Infection

Undetected infections are common in dementia patients. These infections can lead to permanent memory loss, hard to deal with behavior, dullness (the not there effect), and even death.

Related Articles

What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Test Your Memory for Alzheimer's (5 Best Tests)


Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide.

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