Background: Long-term postoperative cognitive dysfunction may occur in the elderly. Age may be a risk factor and hypoxaemia and arterial hypotension causative factors. We investigated these hypotheses in an international multicentre study.
Methods: 1218 patients aged at least 60 years completed neuropsychological tests before and 1 week and 3 months after major non-cardiac surgery. We measured oxygen saturation by continuous pulse oximetry before surgery and throughout the day of and the first 3 nights after surgery. We recorded blood pressure every 3 min by oscillometry during the operation and every 15-30 min for the rest of that day and night. We identified postoperative cognitive dysfunction with neuropsychological tests compared with controls recruited from the UK (n=176) and the same countries as study centres (n=145).
Findings: Postoperative cognitive dysfunction was present in 266 (25.8% [95% CI 23.1-28.5]) of patients 1 week after surgery and in 94 (9.9% [8.1-12.0]) 3 months after surgery, compared with 3.4% and 2.8%, respectively, of UK controls (p<0.0001 and p=0.0037, respectively). Increasing age and duration of anaesthesia, little education, a second operation, postoperative infections, and respiratory complications were risk factors for early postoperative cognitive dysfunction, but only age was a risk factor for late postoperative cognitive dysfunction. Hypoxaemia and hypotension were not significant risk factors at any time.
Interpretation: Our findings have implications for studies of the causes of cognitive decline and, in clinical practice, for the information given to patients before surgery.