Health > Could Dementia be Caused or Exacerbated by Anaesthesia?
7th Jul 2022
Can Anesthesia Enable DementiaLets Find Out

Could Dementia be Caused or Exacerbated by Anaesthesia?

A person who was older when they underwent surgery had a higher risk of developing dementia than one who was younger when they underwent surgery. It seems that older brains might have a reduced capacity to resist the damage caused by anaesthesia, according to the researchers. Although the simple, short way out is that anaesthesia can’t be the cause of dementia. Still, it may cause other symptoms similar to dementia symptoms and must be considered when planning procedures.


Anaesthesia for Seniors

One of the difficulties with anaesthesia for older people is that anaesthesia takes longer for clearing off the patient’s body. Therefore, some adverse effects may persist longer than in younger patients. These effects may resemble dementia-related symptoms and may be present for a few hours, days, or even months following surgery.


Can Anaesthesia Cause Dementia?

Research has shown that anaesthesia can not be the cause of dementia. Still, instead, the condition is known as POCD or postoperative cognitive disorder, which may look and feel like dementia. Patients may be afflicted with confusion, disorientation or sudden mood swings, and other symptoms reminiscent of dementia. It is vital to understand that POCD can occur suddenly and may be present for days, weeks, or even months following surgery. However, dementia disease is a gradual decline that occurs over several months.

There are methods to reduce the negative effects of anaesthesia in senior patients. Consult with the anaesthesiologist before surgery, and let them know if you experienced any issues in the past or are susceptible to experiencing anaesthesia-related fog following surgery. Inform them of any existing medical conditions and medicines you’re taking and also the possibility of experiencing depression. They may be able to utilise a different kind of anaesthesia that can reduce the chance of adverse consequences.


Do General Anaesthetics Escalate the Probability of Developing Disease?

While there is a well-known short-term impact of anaesthesia on memories called Post-Operative Cognitive Decline. Studies that have looked into the connection between the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and general anaesthetics show mixed results.

The inconsistent results of the research make it hard to decide if general anaesthesia increases the risk of developing dementia.


What are the Effects of Anaesthesia on Alzheimer’s Patients?

Certain studies have revealed that general anaesthetics can increase the toxic clumps of tau and amyloid proteins in brain cells, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s onset. These proteins are believed to cause brain cell damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease. However, it is worth noting that although there is an association between seniors who undergo surgery with general anaesthesia and a higher risk of developing dementia, there isn’t any concrete evidence to prove the causality.


Is Anaesthesia Safe for Senior Patients?

Surgery is always a risk, regardless of the stage of life. A concern about dementia or other cognitive problems is not a reason to avoid having the surgery you need. Always consult your physician and anaesthesiologist to discuss issues, risks, and ways to mitigate them, and let them help you make the right decision to suit your health needs.


Is Surgery a Risk Factor for Developing Dementia?

It’s difficult to determine through observational studies which part of the procedure has resulted in a particular problem. Some believe that the impact on memory may be due to the process rather than the anaesthetic.

Surgery can carry a greater risk of complications for seniors, like infections. The reason is that a more ageing body might be less able to defend itself from damage and repair, and doctors may consider this “frailty”.

Research has shown that frailer patients are more prone to problems, short-term memory, and thinking issues, and longer stay in hospitals following surgery. Some researchers believe that the injuries to cells caused by surgery are more likely to cause excessive inflammation in the older cerebral areas than common anaesthetics. Evidence suggests that surgery may cause inflammation, which is linked with a decline in cognitive function, and the precise mechanism behind this isn’t fully known at present.



Anaesthesia may not cause dementia when in use. But still, it is advisable to consult a doctor before any surgery.


Frequently Asked Questions

Does anaesthesia increase the risk of dementia?

In a study published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers found no association between the type of anaesthesia used and the risk of dementia, according to the study’s results.


Can surgery trigger dementia?

For patients administered with intramuscular or intravenous, regional, or general anaesthesia, it can be a dementia cause. In a nationwide, population-based study, it is found that patients who undergo surgery or anaesthesia may be at increased risk of dementia due to that surgery or anaesthesia.


Does anaesthesia affect the brain and memory?

After undergoing surgery, middle-aged people are at greater risk of experiencing memory loss and cognitive decline. The general anaesthesia used during surgery might temporarily knock you out. Still, new research shows that it may have lasting effects on your memory and cognition after you have gone back home.