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Post Operative Cognitive Dysfunction (POCD) – A possible cause of Dementia?

March 12, 2021

Post Operative Cognitive Dysfunction (POCD) is a term that many people have not heard about before. It is Memory Loss after Anesthetics and is a common adverse event after surgery. The incidence of this condition is much higher than one would have thought and it appears to affect people over the age of 60 years and upwards.

Here are some statistics for you to think about :-

“The incidence of POCD in the first week after surgery is 23% in patients between 60 and 69 years of age and 29% in patients older than 70 years of age.

Cognitive dysfunction was still present in 14% of patients over 70 years of age at three months after surgery.”

Even more statistics for Australia that are very interesting:-
“One third or about 264,000 of the 800,000 Australians over 65 years having operations each year are showing cognitive deficits one week after surgery. And about one in five or 160,000 over the age of 65 years are still suffering mentally three months on”.

Post Operative Cognitive Dysfunction is a subject that I feel strongly about. My mother many years ago, had a fall and broke her hip and had to have hip surgery. We waited anxiously to see mum and hoped that the operation was a success. When we saw her, she looked over at Dad and smiled. Then she looked at me with a puzzled expression – didn’t she know me? I was shocked. We asked the doctor what’s going on – and he explained that this was quite a normal thing to happen and it was only temporary. He said that mum would be back to her normal self whenever the anaesthetic wore off. So we waited, days, weeks, months …. It never happened – mum never came back to her normal self again. Her hip surgery with anaesthetics had brought on Alzheimer’s disease/dementia.

So this was one of the reasons I started researching all I could about Alzheimer’s disease and why this had happened to my mother. It is now 17 years ago since she passed away, and yet still, I believe that POCD – Memory loss/Dementia as a result of anesthetics – is still occurring in many people today. I believe from my research, that the particular type of anaesthetic used is Nitrous Oxide – otherwise known as ‘laughing gas’.

If POCD is such a well known cause of Memory Loss/Dementia in the medical world, why hasn’t something been done about it? How can they keep operating using Nitrous Oxide as an anesthetic, knowing full well the serious consequences that a certain percentage of people over 65 years of age are going to end up with – Memory Loss/Dementia?

We all need to be very aware of the many causes of memory problems. Post Operative Cognitive Dysfunction (POCD) I believe, is responsible for the huge numbers of people who now have Alzheimer’s disease/Dementia. It is responsible for those who have had Alzheimer’s disease/Dementia in the past, and if nothing is done to prevent the continued use of Nitrous Oxide during surgery, then many more people over 65 years of age in the future will be affected.

Reference: Book: “Smart Brain, Healthy Brain” http://www.louisehallinan.com.au

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