There are concerns that exposure to general anaesthesia during surgery may contribute to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. To investigate, researchers compared exposure to general anaesthesia versus regional anaesthesia during elective surgery, looking for potential links to the development of dementia.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, included 7,499 matched pairs of community-dwelling individuals aged 66 years or older who underwent surgery between 2007 and 2011 and were followed for up to five years.
The investigators found no difference in the risk of being diagnosed with dementia for individuals who received general anaesthesia when compared with those who received regional anaesthesia (hazard ratio [HR] 1.0; 95% CI 0.8-1.2). There was also no association between anaesthesia and dementia in most subgroup and sensitivity analyses.
“Many older adults experience changes in their cognition immediately following surgery and wonder what role the type of anaesthetic might have played in these changes,” said senior author Dallas P. Seitz, of the University of Calgary, in Canada. “Our study provides evidence that anaesthetic technique used during elective surgeries, general anaesthesia or regional anaesthesia is not associated with a long-term risk of developing dementia.”