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Surgery Not Found to Affect Cognitive Function in Elderly

Non-cardiac surgery, illness not linked to cognitive decline even in those with mild dementia

FRIDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Non-cardiac surgery and major illness have no long-term effect on cognitive function in the elderly, including those with mild dementia, according to a study in the November issue of Anesthesiology.

Michael S. Avidan, from Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues tracked cognitive function before and after non-cardiac surgery, illness, or neither in 575 elderly subjects (214 non-demented and 361 with mild dementia at enrollment).

The researchers found that cognitive trajectories remained similar among patients after surgery, illness or neither, although cognitive function declined more rapidly among demented patients. Although nearly a quarter (23 percent) of non-demented patients progressed to a clinical dementia rating greater than zero, this was not associated with surgery or illness.

"The study did not detect long-term cognitive decline independently attributable to surgery or illness, nor were these events associated with accelerated progression to dementia," Avidan and colleagues conclude. "The decision to proceed with surgery in elderly people, including those with early Alzheimer disease, may be made without factoring in the specter of persistent cognitive deterioration."

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