Surgical Anesthesia and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults: Susana Vacas, MD, PhD


The assistant professor of anesthesiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California–Los Angeles, discussed a recently published article that outlined an association between anesthesia during surgery and cognitive issues. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

“What we know now is that first, we estimated about 40% of the cognitive issues seen after surgery can be preventable. [This is] important in that the outcomes for these diseases lead to longer hospitalization. Actually, in older populations, it's been linked to an increased risk of mortality 1 year after surgery, and risk of premature leaving of work.”

Surgery and the accompanying anesthesia can be utilized to improve the lives of older adults; however, the aging population also faces associated risks when undergoing these procedures, as postoperative neurocognitive disorders (PNDs) remain a concern. Susana Vacas, MD, PhD, sat down with NeurologyLive to discuss findings from a recent article, of which she was the corresponding author, where she and colleagues outlined the need to assess potential risks ahead of surgical procedures. 

Vacas, who is an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California–Los Angeles, further called attention to the needs of patients’ caregivers in addition to patients themselves. Older adults experiencing postoperative delirium, for example, may go to the grocery store and forget what it is that they needed or forget other aspects of daily living activities. Delirium is also associated with high health care and hospital costs, she said, with an estimated 65% of patients 65 years and older experiencing the symptoms.

Vacas S, Cole DJ, Cannesson M. Cognitive decline associated with anesthesia and surgery in older patients. JAMA. 2021;326(9):863-864. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.4773
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