Memory loss and undergoing anesthesia
There are many questions and concerns posed before undergoing surgery, and the risks and side effects of general anesthesia is a common topic.
“A person receiving anesthesia sometimes worries that they won’t feel like themselves when they wake up,” says Dr. Kenneth Candido, chairman of anesthesia and pain management physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Although you might be groggy, disoriented or even a little silly upon waking, those conditions are generally temporary. Fears of awareness under anesthesia and cognitive dysfunction after undergoing anesthesia are two of the most common concerns we are challenged with addressing for many patients.”
Sometimes more serious risks have to be considered, such as persistent confusion or memory loss, especially when treating older patients. A recent Mayo Clinic study found that exposure to anesthesia may not increase a person’s chances of developing these conditions.
The study found that people 40 years old and older who received general anesthesia before undergoing surgery were no more likely than others to experience mild cognitive impairment later on. The term mild cognitive impairment, according to the Mayo Clinic, refers to an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia.
These findings corroborate a previous study that concluded older patients who receive general anesthesia are also no more likely than others to experience dementia.
While researchers are confident in their conclusion that there is no link between receiving anesthesia over age 40 and mild cognitive impairment, they acknowledge more research is needed to test the association for those over the age of 60.
Dr. Candido says adjustments are made when administering general anesthesia based on each individual and their medical history, along with their current medications and overall health.
“We tailor our delivery of medications based the type and nature of the procedure being performed while maintaining patient safety as the top priority,” he says. “The use of general anesthesia is a very safe practice, as your condition is monitored throughout the duration of the procedure. Of course, you should be open and honest with your doctor and discuss if you have reacted to anesthesia negatively in the past or have taken any medications before the procedure.”
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