Surgery worsens patient memory: Swedish study

Jenny Sundelin
Jenny Sundelin - [email protected]
Surgery worsens patient memory: Swedish study

Many routine surgical procedures can result in patients suffering from memory loss and a lack of concentration, a Swedish-American study has shown.


A dose of nicotine can be doctor’s orders after a Swedish-American study shows that possible memory loss after surgery can be prevented by using nicotine to reverse symptoms.

The study, carried out by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and the University of California San Francisco is a breakthrough in understanding post-surgical effects on the brain, the Svenksa Dagbladet (SvD) reports.

Between 20 and 25 percent of patients that have undergone surgery have had problems with affected memory and for some people this has lasted for weeks after their operation.

Up to 10 percent of patients in the study suffered problems with memory loss for nearly three months and some unlucky patients had trouble with both concentration and memory for up to a whole year after their operation.

Through the study, researchers discovered that surgery can set off an “inflammation process”, which then causes memory loss and concentration difficulties.

"These types of disruptions are one of the most common long-term effects following a surgical procedure. Even if the operation has gone well, an inability to concentrate persists," Lars I. Eriksson, professor of anesthetics and critical care at Karolinska Institutet told the newspaper.

Memory loss after surgery has been an increasing common problem and doctors have not known the exact cause of it until now.

Activities that patients have found difficut after surgery are for example remembering their telephone number and concentrating on reading books.

Halmstad resident Bengt Malmsten recently had his knee operated on and said he had terrible concentration problems.

“Reading a book was out of the question,” Malmsten told SvD.

According to Eriksson, one of the compounds being investigated to prevent the inflammation process and is nicotine.

“A dose of nicotine prior to surgery managed to prevent damage to the blood barrier and the invasion of macrophages in the brain, which results in neuro-inflammation and memory disturbance,” he told the paper.


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