Confused lady
(© Dnf-style | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images)

Declines in thinking and memory skills that sometimes follow coronary artery bypass surgery may be short-lived, a new small study suggests.

Earlier reports found cognitive problems in up to two-thirds of people being discharged from the hospital after bypass surgery, which is done to improve blood flow to the heart.

The procedure involves grafting a healthy blood vessel around a blocked one, so blood “bypasses” the unhealthy vessel. Researchers have suspected that during surgery small plaques might break off from the blood vessels and travel to the brain or that blood flow to parts of the brain could be slowed, possibly causing mental impairment.

But the new study—and other more recent evidence—suggests cognitive changes shouldn’t be a major concern for most people considering a bypass, according to Ola Selnes, a neurologist from The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

“Most patients with a relatively healthy brain … can actually tolerate these ill effects of the surgery,” said Selnes, who wrote a commentary published with the study.

“The ones who get into trouble with bypass surgery are the patients who already have some central nervous system disease,” he said.

“Even for these patients, the cognitive decline is not permanent. To the best that we can tell, most patients recover to within normal limits by three months or so.”

For the new study, Australian researchers compared thinking and memory skills among 16 bypass patients, 15 people undergoing less-invasive lung surgery and 15 healthy volunteers before and after the procedures, using a battery of cognitive tests.

Bypass patients started off with worse mental functioning than people in the comparison group. One week post-surgery, seven of the bypass patients and five of the lung surgery patients had significant cognitive impairment.

Most of those problems could be linked to patients’ stress, depression and anxiety, Stephen Robinson from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and his colleagues reported in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. The effects of anesthesia and post-surgery pain could also have played a role, they noted.

By eight weeks, only one person who had undergone bypass surgery was still impaired, according to the cognitive tests. What’s more, four bypass and two lung surgery patients saw improvements in thinking and memory above their pre-operation scores.

“The possibility exists that if you treat heart disease then perhaps the brain also benefits in a secondary sort of fashion through better blood supply to the brain, and that in turn could have protective effects for cognitive change with old age,” Selnes told Reuters Health.

He said that although people shouldn’t seek out bypass surgery to boost their brainpower, people who need it because of heart disease shouldn’t avoid surgery for fear of mental complications, either.

“They should settle for the type of intervention that their cardiologist or heart surgeon thinks is the best for them,” he said. “They shouldn’t really be precluding having traditional (bypass) surgery because of the risk of cognitive decline.”

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Draw closer to God. Experience the presence of the Holy Spirit every month as you read Charisma magazine. Sign up now to get Charisma for as low as $1 per issue.

Get to know the Holy Spirit and how to interact with Him on a daily basis. Learn to enter God's presence and hear His voice clearly for yourself! Go deeper in your faith with Life in the Spirit and change your life and destiny. Are you ready to start your journey?

Did you enjoy this health article? Click here to receive new health articles by email.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • Hillary Clinton

    What if Hillary Clinton Wins the White House?

    Polls have Mrs. Clinton leading by 11 points. The church must be prepared.

  • Holy Spirit prophetic

    7 Ways to Cultivate Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit

    Too many of God's people are led by fear, doubt, man-pleasing, presumption, assumption, idols ...

  • Jezebel puppets

    10 Ways to Spot Jezebel's Spiritually Slick Undercover Con Artists

    It's time to stop tolerating Jezebel in all its many manifestations.

  • Highway exit signs

    Prophetic Word: Watch for the Exit Signs to Light Up This Season

    Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty in the harvest fields. The "barnyard anointing" ...

  • Finger pointing

    The Accuser vs. Donald Trump—and Us All

    This isn't a political persuasion piece, but a current-event case study in the strategies of ...

  • Lance Wallnau

    Lance Wallnau Is on Fire and on Target With His Insights on the Culture and This Election

    I'm sickened by the self-righteous, weak-kneed "evangelicals" who want to be liked by ...

  • Daily scripture reading, meditation and prayer can seem elusive with your busy schedule.

    10 Small Steps to Deeper Intimacy With Holy Spirit in Your Quiet Times

    If deep quiet times seem just out of your reach with your busy schedule, try one of these ...

  • In October, many things will be realigned in your life, including your vision.

    5 Prophetic Revelations About God's October Surprise

    "The winds of apostolic change are blowing across the land and realigning you."

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit