Brain imaging could ID patients at risk for post-surgery cognitive decline

University of Florida researchers, with the help of a $2.3 million grant from the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Nursing Research, will use brain imaging studies to determine which adults are most likely to lose memory and develop cognitive problems after surgery. The study will focus on patients who are undergoing knee replacement surgery. 

Based on previous studies, lead investigator Catherine Price said she believes that certain neuroimaging markers can identify individuals at greater risk for memory and thinking changes after major surgery. "Ideally we want to eliminate the possibility that anesthesia or surgery can cause a dementia such as Alzheimer's disease," Price said in an announcement.

Recent research published in the Annals of Surgery found that older adults are more likely to develop cognitive decline after major operations. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania  determined that Alzheimer's pathology, as reflected by cerebral spinal fluid biomarkers, may be increased in patients following surgery; they found that surgery has a greater impact on a dementia-vulnerable brain than anesthesia.

For the new study, 80 candidates for knee replacement surgery over the age of 60 will receive cognitive testing and MRI brain scans before and after surgery. Researchers will look for brain biomarkers associated with cognitive problems, including white matter abnormalities and changes in small blood vessels.

The subjects will be followed for 12 months after surgery and the results will be compared to a similar group of 80 subjects who did not undergo knee replacement surgery.

To learn more:
- see announcement about University of Florida study
- here's the Annals of Surgery study

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