Long-term postoperative cognitive dysfunction in the elderly ISPOCD1 study. ISPOCD investigators. International Study of Post-Operative Cognitive Dysfunction

Lancet. 1998 Mar 21;351(9106):857-61. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(97)07382-0.


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.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / surgery
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Orthopedic Procedures
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Risk Factors
  • Syndrome
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures