Anesthesia from surgery could cause memory loss, study says

Going under the knife often requires anesthesia, but the medicine could cause moderate memory loss, according to a new report. 

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Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently conducted a study, published in the Anaesthesia journal, to determine how surgery could affect the cognitive function of middle-aged adults.

To do so, they examined 312 individuals who had surgery and 652 who had not. The subjects had an average age of 50. Scientists then measured their ability to remember.

After analyzing the results, they found that surgery was associated with a slight but immediate decline in memory. Those with memory loss scored a 29 out of 30 on tests.

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Furthermore, 77 out of 670 participants with initially normal memory had abnormal test results. About 18 percent of those people had gone undergone surgery and about 10 percent had not.

"The cognitive changes we report are highly statistically significant in view of the internal normative standards we employ,” coauthor Kirk Hogan said in a statement. “But the cognitive changes after surgery are small -- most probably asymptomatic and beneath a person's awareness.”

While they noted that it is too early to recommend methods for prevention and management, they believe their findings are strong. That’s why they hope to continue their investigations to confirm their findings with adults of various ages and with other population sizes. 

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