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 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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