Surgical interventions cause the brain to age

Surgical interventions cause the brain to age

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How do operations affect the age of our brains?

Surgery increases the age of the brain and the risk of significant brain degradation, according to a recent study.

The University of Wisconsin research found that surgery has a significant impact on our brain's health. The results were published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Hospitalization can promote cognitive decline

The data of 7,532 people were evaluated for the study. These were between the ages of 35 and 55. The team specifically investigated cognitive decline, the natural loss of brain function that typically occurs as people age. Some diseases such as a stroke and Alzheimer's can accelerate cognitive decline, but hospitalization can also contribute to such aging, the researchers report. A major surgery that requires an inpatient stay of two days or more will result in five months of brain aging in the long term. For comparison, hospitalization after a stroke increased the age of the brain by 13 years.

Long-term hospital stays have a strong impact

The risk of significant cognitive decline in surgical patients was 5.5 percent. In contrast, the risk was 2.5 percent for people who had never needed a longer hospital stay. Long-term medical admission to a hospital increased this risk to 12.7 percent. The study data indicate that major surgery is associated with a change in age-related cognitive health in the brain. This information should be shared with patients and weighed against the potential benefits of the surgery for health and quality of life, the research group explains.

Many people fear cognitive decline through surgery

The researchers also said they conducted a survey that found that 65 percent of the respondents feared they could lose brain power through surgery. This could even have led individuals to refuse operations that would otherwise have had health benefits.

Surgery can indicate general poor health

The participants in the study were medically monitored for a maximum period of 19 years. During this time, an average of four brain examinations were carried out on them. Because the researchers were not concerned with the anesthetics used or other aspects of the operations, they could not conclude that the operations actually led to brain degradation, but only that there was a connection. They said that surgery in general could be a sign of poor health. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Bryan M Krause, Séverine Sabia, Helen J Manning, Archana Singh-Manoux, Robert D Sanders: Association between major surgical admissions and the cognitive trajectory: 19 year follow-up of Whitehall II cohort study, in British Medical Journal (query: 08.08. 2019), BMJ

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