Does Anesthesia Increase Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s?

Many instances might come in our lives when our loved ones or us will have to undergo surgery—now the nature of the surgery could be anything from a minor one like a dental surgery to a more complex one like a knee replacement surgery. No matter how simple or complex the surgery is, if there is anything common in all surgeries worldwide, it has to be the use of anesthesia. Without administering anesthesia, one can’t bear the pain that comes with the surgery. At that moment, one might think of anesthesia as a boon! However, a majority number of people are aware that anesthesia has a downfall side of it as well.

Most people end up giving their knee replacement surgery a hundred thoughts because of the side effects that anesthesia comes along with. Many people also think of memory loss as one of the side effects of anesthesia. Some even have doubts about whether or not exposure to anesthesia increases one’s risk of falling prey to dementia.

As it is, the thought of undergoing a surgery no matter how minor or major it is feels very critical for the person undergoing it. And to top this off, all the nervousness that surrounds the thought of receiving anesthesia for the surgery is even more mind boggling. It is very normal to feel nervous about being administered with anesthesia and wondering what could be the side-effects that you will be left with. There are several studies out there that have explored the questions and also found conclusions regarding anesthesia and its side-effects. Hopefully, by the end of reading this article, you must have found your answer and feel relieved from your anxiety. Read on to understand how anesthesia can increase one’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease.


The different types of anesthesia

For us to understand how anesthesia has an effect or leads to Alzheimer’s disease, we will have to first learn what exactly is anesthesia and what are the different types of anesthesia that are administered depending on the type of surgery.

What is Anesthesia?

Anesthesia is nothing but a type of medication that is administered to a person to allow certain medical procedures to be carried out without any pain, in certain cases, the patient is awake even during the surgery.

The use of anesthesia is prominent in various procedures, right from invasive surgeries, for example, open-heart surgery to even the most minor procedures like the extraction. If you dive down deeper, you will find that there are four kinds of anesthesia :

  • General
  • Local
  • Regional
  • MAC monitored anesthesia  care

Different medical professionals are appointed to administer anesthesia depending on the purpose of its use. What type of anesthesia will be used typically depends on the state of the patient’s health, what surgery is being done on the patient, the length of the surgery procedure, and the preferences of anesthesia that the surgeon or the provider decides upon. Let’s study in detail the different types of anesthesia.

General anesthesia

In the case of general anesthesia, the patient will typically be given let’s see a combination of medications through an IV needle or a mask. This will make the patient temporarily unconscious. General anesthesia will also paralyze the patient’s muscles including the ones that make it possible for the patient to breathe. This is the reason why the patient will require a ventilator so that the work of the diaphragm and similar muscles is carried out efficiently to help the patient inhale and exhale normally. The anesthesia provider will repeatedly monitor the patient’s vital signs including blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, etc. during the procedure.

After the surgery has been performed a combination of other medications is used on the patient to reverse the effects of anesthesia. This is considered to be the strongest kind of anesthesia and is commonly used during surgeries that will otherwise be very painful for the patient to go through like for example heart surgeries and need replacement.

Regional anesthesia

This type of anesthesia requires injecting a numbing medication into certain specific sites, this is done with the help of a needle or flexible catheter line. By using this type of anesthesia, a certain body part that is being operated on is numbed and this certainly means that the patient is awake but sedated and still conscious during the entire procedure. Such anesthesia is usually given during childbirth to restrict the use of any pain medication on one area of the body that will help prevent the baby from being at the risk of contracting any harmful sedatives.

Local anesthesia

Now, this type of anesthesia is used only to numb a small sight on the body for very minor procedures like skin biopsy or for filling a cavity. The administration of this type of anesthesia involves applying a cream or spray which acts as a numbing medication to the skin where the procedure has to be performed.

MAC monitored anesthesia  care

Now, this type of anesthesia is sedition which is popularly known as twilight sleep. It’s used for outpatient procedures, for example, cataract surgery or colonoscopy, and this is administered through IV and it will make you feel very relaxed and sleepy. This anesthesia wears off in just a matter of 10 minutes.

Research regarding anesthesia  and memory loss

Have you ever come across someone or heard someone talk about how their loved one was not quite themselves after being administered with general anesthesia, you see, general anesthesia has now and then been connected to a worse case of cognitive functioning. But is this connection for real or is it just a coincidence? What is the research support? The answer to this depends on the research study that you read thoroughly. However, there are a handful of certain studies that say that there is a connection between memory loss and anesthesia, some of them are:

  • There is one particular study that concludes an increased risk of dementia after certain patients but is administered with general anesthesia.
  • There was another study that found those who were administered anesthesia during the surgery procedure were exposed to a higher risk of contracting dementia specifically within the time frame of 3 to 7 years after their surgery.
  • A third study speaks about a specific medication when done with a certain type of surgery that is sevoflurane given during spinal surgery — led to a decline in the cognition of the people on whom it had been administered, they suffered from mild cognitive impairment. This mild cognitive impairment is one condition that intensifies the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

What is the confusion?

No research has strongly proven a correlation between the development of Alzheimer’s disease and anesthesia and other kinds of dementia. This results in a lot of confusion among people after surgery when they wake up. The change that people experience after the surgery after they are administered by anesthesia could be related to Delirium — it is a sudden change in attention, memory, thinking ability, and orientation. Amongst elders, Delirium correlates with a higher risk of dementia.

The conclusion

While certain researches find a correlation between dementia and anesthesia, there are not enough studies or pieces of evidence to conclude that there is a true connection. So if your loved one or you are about to undergo any kind of surgery, just breathe easy and do not worry.

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