Intermediate- and Long-Term Cognitive Outcomes After Cardiovascular Procedures in Older Adults: A Systematic Review

Ann Intern Med. 2015 Jul 21;163(2):107-17. doi: 10.7326/M14-2793.


Background: Risks for intermediate- and long-term cognitive impairment after cardiovascular procedures in older adults are poorly understood.

Purpose: To summarize evidence about cognitive outcomes in adults aged 65 years or older at least 3 months after coronary or carotid revascularization, cardiac valve procedures, or ablation for atrial fibrillation.

Data sources: MEDLINE, Cochrane, and Scopus databases from 1990 to January 2015;; and bibliographies of reviews and eligible studies.

Study selection: English-language trials and prospective cohort studies.

Data extraction: One reviewer extracted data, a second checked accuracy, and 2 independently rated quality and strength of evidence (SOE).

Data synthesis: 17 trials and 4 cohort studies were included; 80% of patients were men, and mean age was 68 years. Cognitive function did not differ after the procedure between on- and off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) (n = 6; low SOE), hypothermic and normothermic CABG (n = 3; moderate to low SOE), or CABG and medical management (n = 1; insufficient SOE). One trial reported lower risk for incident cognitive impairment with minimal versus conventional extracorporeal CABG (risk ratio, 0.34 [95% CI, 0.16 to 0.73]; low SOE). Two trials found no difference between surgical carotid revascularization and carotid stenting or angioplasty (low and insufficient SOE, respectively). One cohort study reported increased cognitive decline after transcatheter versus surgical aortic valve replacement but had large selection and outcome measurement biases (insufficient SOE).

Limitations: Mostly low to insufficient SOE; no pertinent data for ablation; limited generalizability to the most elderly patients, women, and persons with substantial baseline cognitive impairment; and possible selective reporting and publication bias.

Conclusion: Intermediate- and long-term cognitive impairment in older adults attributable to the studied cardiovascular procedures may be uncommon. Nevertheless, clinicians counseling patients before these procedures should discuss the uncertainty in their risk for adverse cognitive outcomes.

Primary funding source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / surgery
  • Cardiovascular Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • United States