Authors: Unni Dokkedal, M.P.H. et al
Anesthesiology 2 2016, Vol.124, 312-321.
Background: Postoperative cognitive dysfunction is common, but it remains unclear whether there are long-term adverse cognitive effects of surgery combined with anesthesia. The authors examined the association between exposure to surgery and level of cognitive functioning in a sample of 8,503 middle-aged and elderly twins.
Methods: Results from five cognitive tests were compared in twins exposed to surgery, classified as major, minor, hip and knee replacement, or other, with those of a reference group without surgery using linear regression adjusted for sex and age. Genetic and shared environmental confounding was addressed in intrapair analyses of 87 monozygotic and 124 dizygotic same-sexed twin pairs in whom one had a history of major surgery and the other did not.
Results: Statistically significantly lower composite cognitive score was found in twins with at least one major surgery compared with the reference group (mean difference, −0.27; 95% CI, −0.48 to −0.06), corresponding to one tenth of an SD, that is, a negligible effect size. In the intrapair analysis, the surgery-exposed co-twin had the lower cognitive score in 49% (95% CI, 42 to 56%) of the pairs. None of the other groups differed from the reference group except the knee and hip replacement group that tended to have higher cognitive scores (mean difference, 0.35; 95% CI, −0.18 to 0.87).
Conclusions: A history of major surgery was associated with a negligibly lower level of cognitive functioning. The supplementary analyses suggest that preoperative cognitive functioning and underlying diseases were more important for cognitive functioning in mid- and late life than surgery and anesthesia.