• Study: Disoriented Long After Surgery

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    The delirium that sometimes follows surgery may leave older heart patients with lingering problems with their mental function, including memory and attention, a new study shows.

    The findings call into question the prevailing belief that postoperative delirium — which is very common among older people hospitalized for surgery — usually gets better quickly, researchers said.

    A common complication following surgery in elderly patients is postoperative delirium, a state of confusion that can lead to long-term health problems and cause some elderly patients to complain that they “never felt the same” again after an operation. But a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers suggests that simply limiting the depth of sedation during procedures could safely cut the risk of postoperative delirium by 50 percent.

    University of Toronto researchers discover why anesthetics cause prolonged memory loss

    If you ever suspected that things weren't quite right after going under anesthesia – you were right!

    Anesthetics are serious business. Students taking their clinical internships who happen to prick their fingers by accident get rushed to the emergency room. And one mistake during the procedure can have tragic results like one woman who felt the pain of her entire surgery, but couldn't speak or move.

    Now, one anesthesiologist wants the world to know that anesthetics are nothing to take lightly. And they don't make a person go to sleep – they induce a pharmacological coma.

    Here is another comforting admission … Until now, scientists haven't understood why about a third of patients who undergo anesthesia and surgery experience some kind of cognitive impairment — such as memory loss — at hospital discharge. One-tenth of patients still suffer cognitive impairments three …

    Patients — and even many doctors — think anesthetics don't have long-term consequences. Our research shows that our fundamental assumption about how these drugs work is wrong.

    Animal studies showed this chain reaction has long-term effects on the performance of memory-related tasks.

    In the study — published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation — the team gave healthy male mice a low dose of anesthetic for just 20 minutes and found that receptor activity was increased for a week afterwards. These results suggest the same effect can impact a patient's learning and memory during a time when they are receiving critical information about their care.

    Orser added:

    There's a lot going on after surgery, which can alter our ability to think clearly. Loss of sleep, new environments and medications can all impact a patient's mental function. Anesthetics likely compound these issues.

    She cautioned:

    Anesthetics don't put you to sleep—they induce a pharmacological coma. We shouldn't take these drugs lightly.

    Her suggestion was for physicians to monitor their patients' memory loss and for patients to write things down and seek help. And of course, they are already developing and testing more drugs to stop receptors and restore memory loss. The convenient timing of new drug development might explain why the harmful effects of anesthetics have never been questioned or intensely studied before.

    This is way too late in the game to have admissions like this. If the long-term effects of general anesthesia have not been fully explored, then one should seriously consider ever going under the knife. Prevention is the best way – please consider the help of a highly trained naturopath to catch things before requiring surgery. It can't always be prevented – if there's a way, please consider local pain relief or alternatives to “going under.”

    The surgery is indeed a trauma to the body, but so is anesthesia; some people never feel the same again. In which case, reach out to that naturopath to help regain full consciousness, get back into your body and restore full brain function.

    Anything that interrupts normal brain function can cause delirium. Inflammation or toxic substances can interfere with brain function, for example, by disturbing the neurotransmitters that communicate between nerve cells. Though the causes of delirium are complex, one major pathway involves the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. If blood sugar levels fall too low or the brain doesn't receive enough oxygen, acetylcholine levels plummet.

    Many anticholinergic medications (drugs that reduce the effect of acetylcholine), including the blood pressure drug nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia, others) and the incontinence medication tolterodine (Detrol), can trigger delirium as a side effect. Also, older people make less acetylcholine than the young, so they're at greater risk for delirium (especially those who already have dementia or another neurological disorder.) In vulnerable individuals, delirium can be induced by infection, insufficient food and drink, a trauma such as surgery or injury, uncontrolled pain, medications that most people tolerate well, or simply the unfamiliar surroundings of a hospital.

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