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Surgery leads to memory loss

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Thousands of Australians may be at risk of memory loss and even dementia after undergoing surgery, studies have found.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a meeting of anaesthetists in Singapore found that, every year, one third of Australian patients over 65 are exhibiting cognitive deficits a week after surgery.

One in five of those people is still experiencing problems three months later.

According to Beverly Orser, professor of anaesthesia and physiology at the University of Toronto, cognitive decline was found to be more common amongst older people and individuals having longer surgeries.

However, experts remain hopeful that the harmful effects of surgery and anaesthetic on the brain can be reversed.

“There may be compounds that are able to at least in part reverse some of the memory deficits associated with anaesthesia and surgery. It’s promising but it’s early days,’’ Professor Orser said at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists annual scientific meeting.

Interestingly, a study by the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne recently declared that nitrous oxide, an anaesthetic drug better known as “laughing gas”, was “safe” for widespread use and caused no risk of heart attack, stroke or infection.