General anesthesia does not appear to increase dementia risk

In the journals

Published: January, 2021

Because older adults often experience temporary changes in memory and thinking after having general anesthesia, they may worry that it increases their risk of dementia. A recent study should help put their minds at ease. Researchers found no association between the type of anesthesia and dementia risk, according to findings published online Oct. 6, 2020, by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The study looked at almost 7,500 people ages 66 or older without diagnosed dementia who underwent surgery requiring either general anesthesia (where you are unconscious) or regional anesthesia (where you are awake and the surgical area is numbed). The researchers included only people who had not had any previous surgery and stopped assessing those who had a second surgery later.

Participants were then monitored for up to five years. The investigators found no statistical difference in people's risk of being diagnosed with dementia whether they had general anesthesia or regional anesthesia. The researchers added that the risk also did not vary based on a person's age at the time of surgery.

Image: © digitalskillet/Getty Images

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.