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looks at ways to prevent Memory Loss caused
by Anesthetics during recovery from Surgery
Newswise, October 2010 — Memory loss after
anesthesia is a common adverse event upon
awakening from surgery. Unfortunately the
cause of such memory loss is unknown and
there are no known treatments or prevention
Memory impairment is an especially common
occurrence in the elderly. Around 47 percent
of elderly patients who underwent general
anesthesia for minor surgical procedures
exhibit memory deficits for at least 24
hours after surgery. Some of these deficits
can linger: cognitive impairment, including
memory loss, is present in 31-47 percent of
patients at the time of hospital discharge.
Why memory loss happens, how severe it is,
and how long it takes to recover remain
A study published in the November 2010 issue
of Anesthesiology indicates
that this memory loss could be prevented by
blocking a receptor thought to contribute to
Such a treatment may be able to solve the
feeling of mental confusion that surgical
patients so often feel shortly after coming
out of anesthesia.
In the current study, Beverley A. Orser,
M.D., Ph.D., F.R.C.P.C. and her research
team at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
and Mount Sinai Hospital looked at two
groups of anesthetized mice – one treated
with a drug that inhibits a known
memory-blocking receptor, and one treated
with a control solution.
“When tested 30 minutes and at one day after
anesthetic exposure, the mice in the control
group exhibited a memory deficit that was
not observed in the mice treated with the
blocking compound,” said Dr. Orser.
“We found that the memory deficit in the
post-anesthetic period could be completely
prevented by treatment with a drug that
inhibits the memory-blocking receptor.”
Studies in patients involving anesthetics
and their effects on memory are especially
difficult, said Dr. Orser, because of the
inability to disentangle the effects of
anesthetics from other factors that can
cause memory deficit.
Therefore, animal models are important for
helping to identify types of learning and
memory susceptible to impairment and to
identify certain molecular mechanisms.
Dr. Orser’s study underscores the need for
human clinical trials that will assess
memory performance soon after surgery.
“In practical terms, our study suggests the
need to re-evaluate and study the assumption
that patients will remember important
information given to them after surgery,”
said Dr. Orser.
“Until such studies are performed, it seems
prudent to use strategies such as written
information or sharing information with
family members to ensure that instructions
are learned and remembered.”
The American Society of Anesthesiologists
Anesthesiologists: Physicians providing the
lifeline of modern medicine. Founded in
1905, the American Society of
Anesthesiologists is an educational,
research and scientific association with
45,000 members organized to raise and
maintain the standards of the medical
practice of anesthesiology and improve the
care of the patient.
For more information on the field of
anesthesiology, visit the American Society
of Anesthesiologists website atwww.asahq.org.
For patient information, visitLifelinetoModernMedicine.com.