Postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD)

The Guardian reported on the new study showing the dangers of anesthesia during surgery on vulnerable adults. Operations have cognitive side-effects with patients over 65. Postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) is when cognitive problems caused by surgery continue well after the effects of anaesthetics have worn off. It is a major concern for surgical candidates and their loved ones.

As far back as 1887, the British Medical Journal published a paper describing cases of delirium after surgery with anaesthesia. A century later, scientists in the 1980s began to look at cases of older patients who had shown a decline in memory and concentration after cardiac surgery, but it has only been more recently that this has become apparent as a risk factor for all over-65s who undergo surgery, especially when under deep sedation.

Look for certain symptoms after surgery. POCD symptoms include issues with memory, attention, judgment and perception. The overall incidence of POCD in nursing home residents and older patients are between 50-80% at discharge, 20-50% at six weeks and 10-30% at six months post-surgery.