Anesthesia may decrease memory, cognitive skills in adults 70+, study says

A study, published in the British Journal of Anesthesia, claims adults 70 years and older experience a subtle decline in memory and cognitive skills after being exposed to general anesthesia.

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic researchers analyzed 1,819 adults between the ages of 70 and 89. They measured whether cognitive decline was associated with surgery and anesthesia exposure up to 20 years prior or anesthesia exposure post-enrollment.

Researchers found a slight decline in cognitive ability following exposure to anesthesia and surgery. Although older adults naturally experience a decline in cognitive ability, anesthesia or surgery exposure slightly accelerated it beyond the normal aging process.

Researchers said it was impossible to determine whether anesthesia, surgery or the underlying conditions necessitating surgery caused the decline.

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