The Role of Neuroinflammation in Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction: Moving From Hypothesis to Treatment

Front Psychiatry. 2019 Jan 17:9:752. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00752. eCollection 2018.


Postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) is a common complication of the surgical experience and is common in the elderly and patients with preexisting neurocognitive disorders. Animal and human studies suggest that neuroinflammation from either surgery or anesthesia is a major contributor to the development of POCD. Moreover, a large and growing body of literature has focused on identifying potential risk factors for the development of POCD, as well as identifying candidate treatments based on the neuroinflammatory hypothesis. However, variability in animal models and clinical cohorts makes it difficult to interpret the results of such studies, and represents a barrier for the development of treatment options for POCD. Here, we present a broad topical review of the literature supporting the role of neuroinflammation in POCD. We provide an overview of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of POCD from pre-clinical and human studies. We offer a brief discussion of the ongoing debate on the root cause of POCD. We conclude with a list of current and hypothesized treatments for POCD, with a focus on recent and current human randomized clinical trials.

Keywords: anesthesia; central nervous system; cognitive decline; microglia; neuroinflammation; postoperative cognitive dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review