Background: Cognitive deficits have been reported in patients after coronary artery bypass grafting, but the incidence of these deficits varies widely. We studied prospectively the incidence of cognitive change and whether the changes persisted over time.
Methods: Cognitive testing was done preoperatively and 1 month and 1 year postoperatively in 127 patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting. Tests were grouped into eight cognitive domains. A change of 0.5 standard deviation or more at 1 month and 1 year from patient's preoperative Z score was the outcome measure.
Results: We identified four main outcomes for each cognitive domain: no decline; decline and improvement; persistent decline; and late decline. Only 12% of patients showed no decline across all domains tested; 82% to 90% of patients had no decline in visual memory, psychomotor speed, motor speed, and executive function; 21% and 26% had decline and improvement in verbal memory and language; approximately 10% had persistent decline in the domains of verbal memory, visual memory, attention, and visuoconstruction; and 24% had late decline (between 1 month and 1 year) in visuoconstruction.
Conclusions: This study establishes that the incidence of cognitive decline varies according to the cognitive domain studied and that some patients have persistent and late cognitive changes in specific domains after coronary artery bypass grafting.