Surgery Affects Concentration and Memory
Researchers from the Sweden's Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital have recently published a study in the Annals of Neurology that provides greater insight into postoperative cognitive decline. The condition is common in the first week following surgery but can last as long as three months in 10 percent of patients. Led by anesthesiology and intensive care professor Lars Eriksson, the investigators mapped signal pathways from the peripheral surgical lesion to the areas in the brain associated with learning and memory and studied neuroinflammatory changes resulting from surgery to find causes for postoperative cognitive decline. No reason was determined, although the researchers did discover that surgery can damage the blood-brain barrier, allowing activated immunocompetent blood cells called macrophages into the cognitive areas of the brain. Eriksson noted that by administering "an acetylcholine-like substance with an affinity for an alpha-7 protein, part of the natural anti-inflammatory reflex pathway, prior to surgery, you significantly decrease the levels of inflammatory proteins and the consequent damage to the blood-brain barrier, and thus prevent the infiltration of macrophages into the brain." The study concluded that an endogenous inflammatory pathway treated in this manner almost fully normalized cognitive capacity in the postoperative period, indicating that such an approach can prevent postoperative neuroinflammation and cognitive decline.
rom "Surgery Affects Concentration and Memory"