Impairment of cerebral function following cardiac and other major surgery
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Patients undergoing routine coronary artery surgery (N = 76) were compared with those undergoing other major operations (N = 29) in a prospective multidisciplinary study designed to define the incidence of neurological and psychological sequelae. The preoperative state of the carotid and vertebral arteries was defined by digital subtraction angiography. Changes in clinical neurological examination, detailed neuropsychological testing, psychiatric assessment and cerebral blood flow were measured. All preoperative studies were repeated 8 days and 8 weeks after surgery. Clinical neurological examination was repeated in addition on the 1st postoperative day. New focal neurological signs were found in 8% of the cardiac patients and none of the comparison group 24 h after operation (P = 0.9). Global transient neurological dysfunction occurred in 59% of the coronary group in the 1st postoperative day compared with 21% in other forms of surgery (P = 0.0007) but this correlated with postoperative narcotic and sedative drugs. A deterioration in neuropsychological performance was detectable in 73% of coronary cases at 8 days which was more likely to occur with increasing age, longer bypass time and lower perfusion pressure, but similar neuropsychological changes also occurred in 50% of the comparison group. By 8 weeks, there was a significant improvement in the cardiac patients (37%, P less than 0.001) but not in the other group. Cerebral blood flow was reduced at 8 days in the coronary bypass patients but not in the comparison group suggesting that the mechanism of cerebral change may be different in the two groups.
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