Oct 23, 2014

Can Anesthesia Trigger Dementia or Memory Loss

There can be little doubt that the use of anesthesia with dementia patients is controversial. Thousands of readers of the Alzheimer's Reading Room believe anesthesia worsened dementia, and caused greater memory loss.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

There can be little doubt that the use of anesthesia with dementia patients is controversial.

The ongoing debate about the potential effects of anesthesia on persons living with dementia rages on.

Here on the Alzheimer's Reading Room we have had thousands of caregivers over the years comment that their loved one did poorly after surgery. Sometimes the state of dementia worsens and then comes back, sometimes it does not.

Sometimes short term memory worsens and over times comes back, often it does not.

There are three main issues right now:

1. How does anesthesia effect persons living with dementia?

2.How does anesthesia effect people who have cardiac surgery, hypertension and diabetes?

3.And importantly, how does anesthesia effect people who are predisposed to dementia?

I just finished reading an interesting article in Scientific American  which addresses some of these issues.

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

Issues that I believe you should become familiar with, and issues that you should discuss and share with others. Especially those of you that are Baby Boomers. The Boomers will be received a lot of anesthesia in the future - this is a certainty.

Excerpt from the Scientific American article.
It is common to hear that an elderly patient “just isn’t the same” after surgery, says Robert Eckenhoff, an anesthesiologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Many people wonder if anesthesia—which is designed to make people groggy and temporarily rob them of their mental faculties—is to blame. Elderly patients often exhibit a condition called postoperative cognitive decline in which they experience lapses in memory and attention, but it usually does not last for more than a few weeks.
Scientists are working on ways to identify populations that might be more susceptible to dementia via biomarkers and other tests, and eventually hope to use that information to make surgery safer for them. This could potentially include smarter, biologically targeted anesthetics, along with drugs to counteract the stress involved in surgery.  
It is difficult to untangle the effects of anesthesia from those caused by the operation itself, however. Surgery is a traumatic experience that is known to provoke inflammation. Eckenhoff believes neuroinflammation from surgery rather than anesthesia is the true culprit in cognitive decline, which can “interact with pathology that is sort of smoldering along in somebody with incipient Alzheimer’s disease” and accelerate it, he says.

Here is the link to the article -

Can General Anesthesia Trigger Dementia?

We have quite a bit of information on this issue available here in the Alzheimer's Reading Room. To find all of it enter the word - anesthesia - into the search box over on the right hand side of the page.

Here are a few examples of what we have available.

Does Anesthesia Cause Memory Loss or Dementia in the Elderly?

Alzheimer's and Anesthesia

Study Links Surgery and Anesthesia With Alzheimer’s

3 Things Everyone Should Know About Anesthesia

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).

You are reading original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room