July 6, 2018
Undergoing surgery for older adults typically includes some inherent risks, but there’s a little-known effect impacting a substantial number of seniors after surgery that we all must be aware of: POCD (postoperative cognitive dysfunction). POCD occurs in more than 25% of older adults during the days or even weeks following non-cardiac surgery, and may present with a number of symptoms, several of which may be almost indiscernible: forgetfulness, loss in concentration and focus, and other forms of cognitive function decline that affect quality of life.
Research points towards the surgical treatment itself and the associated stress, as opposed to anesthesia, as the culprit in POCD. According to Dr. Roderic Eckenhoff, vice chair for research and Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania professor of anesthesiology, “Most surgery causes peripheral inflammation. In young people, the brain remains largely isolated from that inflammation, but with older people, our blood-brain barrier becomes kind of leaky. That contributes to neuroinflammation, which activates a whole cascade of events in the brain that can accelerate the ongoing aging process.”
There are still many unknowns to be researched to ascertain how to prevent and/or effectively treat POCD: how exactly to most effectively evaluate it, whether or not it plays a role in a continuum of brain disorders post-surgery or perhaps is a standalone condition, and how to distinguish it from standard brain functionality later in life. Researchers are presently working to have a better understanding of POCD, with a number of scientific journals preparing to release the most recent conclusions and developments at an upcoming POCD summit.
While usually a short-term condition, POCD is a risk factor that needs to be discussed with the physician prior to surgery for an older adult, especially if the senior has existing cognitive function concerns. And for all seniors undergoing surgery, it’s a wise idea to refrain from tasks which are cognitively demanding for 1 month post-surgery.
Continuum, the leader in St. Louis home health care services, is the perfect post-procedure partner to give seniors the opportunity to rest and fully recover from surgery, offering personalized, in-home help with a wide variety of tasks. Whether the need is for assistance with household chores and meals during recovery, picking up medication refills and groceries, light housework and organization around the home, or help with personal care, safe ambulation and fall prevention, we’re available for as much or as little care as necessary. Give us a call at (314) 863-9912 or contact us online to learn more and to schedule a free in-home assessment to ascertain the way we can most effectively assist your senior loved one.