General Anesthesia Increases Risk of Dementia in Elderly

Newly presented research is showing that exposure to general anesthesia may increase the risk of dementia in the elderly by about 35%. The term used to describe the side effect is postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD), and is a common occurrence in elderly patients after any type of major surgery.

These new findings are suggesting that there may be a connection between POCD and the development of dementia as a result of a common mechanism presented through an amyloid peptide. Several studies are showing that anesthetics could lead to the inflammation of neural tissues, which could lead to POCD and even Alzheimer’s disease.

To complete the study, researchers used a population sample representative of elderly patients aged 65 and older. The participants all underwent an interview at baseline and at 2, 4, 7, and 10 years thereafter. Each interview included a complete cognitive evaluation and a screening for dementia. Throughout the study, researchers found that patients who received anesthesia were more likely to be demented over those who did not undergo any procedure requiring anesthesia. Any elderly patients who go through surgery should be monitored for POCD, as well as have a long term plan to follow up with doctors in regards to the possible development of dementia.