How surgery can cause delirium and dementia - and how to avoid both

August 20, 2013
Volume 10    |   Issue 34

When I broke my leg five years ago, I awakened from surgery and didn't know where I was. Was I still in the hospital, or was I in the rehabilitation facility? I had no idea.

I was aware that I was confused, but that didn't help me figure anything out. Finally, I spotted a plant by my window that gave me the clue I needed. I remembered that a friend who had stopped by the rehab facility had given it to me. So I knew then that I was already in rehab.

Figuring out where you are after surgery is a common problem due to toxicity from anesthesia. It affects nearly half of older people. And it was affecting me too. It's hard for the body to clear toxic substances from anesthetics. Fortunately, I was prepared. I had taken a detox formula with me. My friends gave some to me while I was still in rehab, and my mind became still clearer.

Unfortunately for many older people undergoing surgery, the delirium I experienced is all too common, and they often don't have the advantage of a detox formula like I did. In fact, according to a study published in the August issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, nearly half of older adults who have surgery with general anesthesia experience delirium in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU).

Delirium in the PACU doesn't just cause some mental discomfort when a patient wakes up confused. It's also linked to a decline in cognitive function and an increase in nursing home admission after surgery, even for adults who lived alone prior to their procedure. In fact, according to the study by Dr. Karin J. Neufeld of Johns Hopkins University, "Recognizing delirium in the PACU may be important for identifying patients at higher risk of in-hospital harms, as well as cognitive impairment and institutionalization at hospital discharge."

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The study examined 91 adults, with an average age of 79, who had major surgery under general anesthesia. They looked for evidence of delirium in the PACU, which they defined as "acute change in level of consciousness, inattention, and disturbed cognitive function." They found that 45% of their patients experienced this delirium in the PACU, and for many, the delirium persisted even when they were moved to the hospital wards.

The researchers then examined the patients' mental function and found that those who demonstrated early delirium showed mental function decreases after the surgery, even when the researchers controlled for initial cognitive scores and length of surgery.

While delirium doesn't affect all older patients, it's definitely an area of concern for those who are affected. Even when delirium is short-lived, it can have lasting effects. When delirium began early and persisted, 39% of patients were discharged to a nursing home or similar institution rather than their homes. And even of those whose early delirium had subsided by the day after the surgery, 26% went to an institution. By contrast, only 3% of those who did not show signs of delirium in the PACU were discharged to an institution.

It's too bad that general anesthesia can have such significant and lasting effects. Further studies are needed to evaluate the true impact of anesthesia and associated delirium. In the meantime, if you or a loved one is undergoing surgery, you can help protect yourself like I did. Consider using Pectasol Detox Formula to help clear lingering toxins from your brain and improve your chances of a full mental recovery.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


Read the article in Anesthesia & Analgesia: The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

Wolters Kluwer Health. "45 percent of older adults suffer delirium in recovery room after surgery." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 28 Jul. 2013. Web. 29 Jul. 2013. <>

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