Why anesthetics cause prolonged memory loss

November 3, 2014
Science Daily/University of Toronto
Researchers have shown why anesthetics can cause long-term memory loss, a discovery that can have serious implications for post-operative patients.

Until now, scientists haven't understood why about a third of patients who undergo anesthesia and surgery experience some kind of cognitive impairment -- such as memory loss -- at hospital discharge. One-tenth of patients still suffer cognitive impairments three months later.

Anesthetics activate memory-loss receptors in the brain, ensuring that patients don't remember traumatic events during surgery. Professor Beverley Orser and her team found that the activity of memory loss receptors remains high long after the drugs have left the patient's system, sometimes for days on end.

Animal studies showed this chain reaction has long-term effects on the performance of memory-related tasks."Patients -- and even many doctors -- think anesthetics don't have long-term consequences. Our research shows that our fundamental assumption about how these drugs work is wrong," says Orser, a Professor in the Departments of Anesthesia and Physiology, and anesthesiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141103192130.htm

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