Patients over the age of 75 have a 35% higher risk of developing dementia. A common side effect of going through general anaesthesia in elderly patients is post operative cognitive dysfunction or POCD. Studies have shown POCD may be linked to dementia many years after surgery.
It is possible that certain anaesthetics can cause inflammation in the brain which then leads to POCD and can cause further complications down the road such as Alzheimer’s. This link has not been proven yet but there is a strong correlation.
A study involving over 9,000 patients with an average age of 75 was carried out in France. Each patient was assessed at the start and again 2 years than 4 years than 7 and 10 years later.
Some of the key facts from this study were:
33% of the patients had received anesthesia and in the first 2 years. 20% general and 13% local anesthtic.
After 8 years 9% had developed Dementia some with probably Alzheimer’s and the rest non Alzheimer’s.
Of the patients with dementia 37% had received anesthesia however 32% that also had anesthesia didn’t show signs of dementia.
The results concluded that there is strong enough evidence after 8 years those that had general anaesthetic had a 35% higher risk of developing dementia.
Other studies of general anesthtic on children revealed that it much more likely a child will develop ADHD or attention deficit disorder.