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The post-op brain

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Science  02 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6341, pp. 898-900
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6341.898

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Summary

Patients who have undergone surgery may develop a condition known as postoperative cognitive decline that involves problems with memory, concentration, and attention. Researchers are trying to determine what causes this condition and how to protect patients. Whether the impairment persists remains controversial, with some studies suggesting a link between surgery and long-term mental declines and other studies finding no connection. Researchers long suspected that anesthetics, which can damage brain cells, triggered cognitive problems. But the main suspect now is inflammation sparked by the physical trauma of surgery. Researchers are now investigating several ways of protecting the brain, including activating natural inflammation-suppressing mechanisms and beefing up patients' cognitive abilities before surgery.