Seniors have more post-operative memory problems, study shows

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Individuals over 60 are more than twice as likely to develop memory problems after non-cardiovascular surgery than their younger counterparts, according to new study results. In addition, elderly post-op patients whose memory problems persisted longer than three months were more likely to die within the 12-month period after surgery.

Doctors "have known that patients undergoing heart surgery are at risk for cognitive dysfunction ... but the effects of non-cardiac surgeries on brain function are not as well-understood," said Dr. Terri Monk, a Duke University Medical Center anesthesiologist who authored the report.
Surgery and anesthesia could cause swelling of the brain that affects memory and cognitive process, Monk explained. If seniors are shown to be predisposed to cognitive problems after surgery, doctors could devise better strategies to prevent after-effects of surgery and anesthesia on the brain, she noted. Nearly 1,100 patients were given tests to determine levels of cognitive function before, immediately after and three months after surgery. About 1 in 8 (12.7%) in the 60-plus group had some form of memory defect, compared with only 5.6% in the younger groups.
Roughly 30% top 40% of all adult patients undergoing major non-cardiac surgery experience some form of memory or processing problem at the time of discharge, but most people recover within three months, experts say.
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