Post-Surgery Memory Loss Is Not Dementia

Dementia risk was not higher for people who have memory problems after surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Some people have problems with thinking and memory after having surgery. Researchers wanted to know if having these post-surgery problems was a risk factor for dementia.

They tracked elderly people who had a surgery for up to 11 years. They found that about 17 percent of the people had memory and thinking problems one week after surgery. But those thinking problems did not raise the risk that they would develop dementia later on.

"Ask a doctor about dealing with post-surgery memory problems."

The study, led by Jacob Steinmetz, MD, of the Department of Anaesthesia at HOC 4231 Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, looked at people who were part of some larger studies.

The researchers followed 686 people who were part of The International Studies of Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction (ISPOCD).

Using standard testing for dementia, they looked at memory and thinking skills of patients.  Each patient was tested before surgery, one week and three months after surgery.

Then they tracked the patients for up to 11 years to see who developed dementia. Dementia of any type was included, like Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.

Most patients were between 61 and 74 years old at the start of the study.

After surgery, 118 people (or 17 percent) had some thinking problems one week after surgery. By three months after surgery, only 57 people (or 8.3 percent) still had some thinking problems.

Over the 11 years of follow-up, 32 people (or 4.6 percent) developed dementia.

The people who had thinking or memory problems at one week or three months after surgery were not more likely to develop dementia over the 11 year follow-up.

The authors concluded that having post-surgery cognitive problems is not related to developing dementia later in life.

The rate of dementia was lower in this study group than in the general US population. A 2006 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that six to 10 percent of Americans over age 65 have some form of dementia.

The lower rate of dementia may mean that the group of study participants does not represent an American population.

This study was published December 28 in the British Journal of Anaesthesiology. Funding and financial conflicts were not available with the journal’s website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 3, 2013
Last Updated:
January 6, 2013