Dementia is Another Anesthesia Risk

Anesthesia during surgery doubles your Alzheimer’s risk.

A new study pub­lished in the British Jour­nal of Psy­chi­a­try shows that going under the knife rais­es your risk of demen­tia.  And the effect shows up in as lit­tle as 2–7 years.     

anesthesia needles

About 24,000 peo­ple over 50 who had anes­the­sia dur­ing surgery were com­pared with about 110,000 who didn’t have surgery.  After 2–7 years of fol­low-up, 2.65% of the anes­thetized patients had signs of Alzheimer’s demen­tia, com­pared to about 1.3% of the non-surgery cas­es.  That’s about dou­ble the rate.

Sur­geons have always noticed men­tal con­fu­sion in patients as they came out of surgery, but they used to think that the effect was short-lived, with nor­mal brain func­tion return­ing with­in a few days.  These lat­est find­ings sug­gest there are more pro­found and longer last­ing effects of anes­the­sia drugs.     

What can be done to limit anesthesia risk?

On the whole, sur­geons in the Unit­ed States per­form most pro­ce­dures at a much high­er rate than sur­geons over­seas, with­out nec­es­sar­i­ly improv­ing health out­comes.  That means the need for surgery in the US can be reduced con­sid­er­ably. 

Spinal surgery offers a ripe oppor­tu­ni­ty.  Too often, a diag­no­sis is giv­en based on MRI pic­tures instead of on more mean­ing­ful func­tion­al mea­sures of spinal dynam­ics.  Ulti­mate­ly that can lead to surgery to fix an anatom­i­cal defect on the MRI that may or may not cor­re­late with someone’s symp­toms.

Anoth­er issue in spine care that leads to more surgery is the under­uti­liza­tion of chi­ro­prac­tic, one of the safest and best-researched meth­ods for spinal pain.  Numer­ous best-prac­tices guide­lines sup­port the use of spinal man­u­al ther­a­py as a first-line ther­a­py for back pain, but many ortho­pe­dists vir­tu­al­ly ignore this test­ed approach.

Oth­er recent research calls into ques­tion the effec­tive­ness of surgery for knee prob­lems and oth­er ortho­pe­dic con­di­tions.  Sim­i­lar scruti­ny is being applied to surgery for oth­er body sys­tems, too. 

It’s nev­er too late to improve your health to avoid the need for surgery alto­geth­er.  And even if surgery has been rec­om­mend­ed to you, con­sid­er alter­na­tives.  You might be sur­prised how effec­tive they can be.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Steno­sis, anes­the­sia, mem­o­ry loss and body aware­ness


About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty five years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website,, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.
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