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If dementia is diagnosed following surgery, will it get better once the anesthesia is out of the system? How long does it take for anesthesia to no longer cause problems in the elderly? Is it possible for anesthesia to remain in the system for a year or two? Surgeon said his reaction to anesthesia was more pronounced because he has underlying dementia. I've been told by a few people that my husband's dementia or dementia like systems could disappear a year or two after sugery, since it's possible for anesthesia to remain in the system for a year or two. I've been told so many things by so many people I don't know what to believe anymore. My husband does appear fairly normal at times, but anyone who works with him in assisted living say that he displays signs of sundowner syndrome in the evening. He is determined that one way or the other, he is not going to be staying in A.L., he now wants to see a psychiatrist to prove there is nothing wrong with him, even though A.L. staff, family doctor, therapists, etc. insist he needs A.L. Many times he has informed me that a friend is picking him up and taking him to a ball game or that he has been asked to be in involved in a charity auction at a service organizaiton and needs a ride. When I call to confirm it, I am told that simply is not true. I'm not comfortable thinking of him coming home, since he can not be trusted; told me if he came home, he would buy another car and drive it, spend money just like he used to, live his life just as he did prior to all of this. (his driving is extremely dangerous).

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At age 78, my dad was on 5 medications for his heart and for his prostate. He seemed very confused and had issues feeling constipated. We took him to emergency where they initially diagnosed a 'raging' urinary tract infection and on further examination, his bowel had 'twisted over on itself' blocking his ability to go to the bathroom. His confusion, they said, was related to the UTI. He had emergency surgery to repair his bowel but once the anesthetic wore off he was completely delusional. The hospital continued to suggest this was 'normal' (by the way, the hospital food they brought him was so bad that we banned them from feeding him and we brought in all his food from home). He was completely 'gone' mentally and thought he was in a movie, being persecuted, the hospital staff were out to get him. He also saw bugs and would only calm down when a family member was with him. We were there nearly around the clock and when we weren't, they often strapped him down so he would not 'escape'. He also ripped out his catheter, got more of an infection and then contracted pneumonia. After two weeks with zero improvement, we were able to get him off a number of drugs and also brought in neurofeedback - he did 6 sessions - 6 days in a row - and after a week, he was 'normal enough' to come home to my place. Another week and another 6 sessions and he was back in his own condo and independant again. He never was fully as good as he was before the surgery, but my understanding after some research is that the more drugs you are on prior to anesthetic, the higher the risk for delusional outcome. Now, a year and a half later, he is still not the man he was prior to this surgery and anasthetic, but he is able to be independent. We have completely changed his diet and are now embarking on a new path with an orthomolecular practitioner to see if that might help even more. Diet has been a huge part of his recovery - no sugar, no dairy, very little gluten. Lots of proteins, organic fruit and veggies that our family prepares for him.
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Ggjj11,
I would encourage you to locate a place where you mom can get care. There are places for people in all the stages of dementia. Many dementia patients display the symptoms you describe. There are private pay places and if she cannot pay, you can apply her for Medicaid. Either way, I would seek assistance for her, so you can take care of yourself.
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My89 year old Mombroke hip, had anesthesia. Before this she was getting forgetful and anxious living alone. Right after surgery nose dived into delusions, fear, angry, thinking the nurses were trying to kill her, thought these people were evil and not to be surprised if they killed her. I am only child 69 years old had 3 cancer surgeries in last 5 months. Have more possible surgeries coming up. No where to put Mom. Don't know what to do with her. Stressed is so not the word
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Yes, teaka, you are totally correct. So glad my husband has improved but vow to never allow it again, even if I have to always have in home private health care.
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My mom was never the same after having anesthesia for a cochlear implant. When I posted on this site asking for pro/con advice one responder said that anesthesia could have a big impact on her at her age (89). They were right. We will try to avoid any anesthesia for my MIL. The brain reawakens as it were at a much slower slower rate.
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Wow--this hits too close to home. I'm going to answer this b/c my DIL is an anesthesiologist and we have discussed this more than once. General anesthesia is very tricky, esp in the elderly. It CAN cause long term anxiety, depression and a lot of other unpleasant s/e....in me, a healthy 59 yo, I had 2 major surgeries this year (yuck). I was OK after the first one (back surgery) then had to have a 2nd surgery 4 months later on my foot. I began to suffer almost immediately from horrible panic attacks, depression, inability to think straight and suicidal ideations....luckily, this had happened many years ago when I had gallbladder disease and had my gallbladder out. I went BACK on an antidepressant and within a few weeks felt more "normal". I have also started seeing a therapist (this is an ongoing thing for me, so not really due to the post op depression). Her take was that under anes. our brains literally "reset" them selves and depression/anxiety/foggy thinking is not uncommon. I hope to NEVER have general anesthesia again. My mother loves surgery, she's planning to sneak a hip replacement in sometime this year and she cannot have an epidural. Every time she has a surgery, she becomes a little more "out of it". Her last surgery, I noticed she was NOT herself for almost a year. Her sense of taste changed--weirdly. She is more childlike and lot more angry with some of us. She's a little better--but not much. She's 85. In truth,
anesthesiologists do their "job" and don't follow up with patients, long term.
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Yes, it can. However, it only exacerbates an underlying problem. If you are lucky things normally return to normal within a few weeks.
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I have to agree with many of those who responded. My husband showed signs of deminished capacity but was certainly functioning independently. Within 2 years he had 3 back surgeries, a broken rib and hernia surgery. His decline was very noticeable and though his body healed...he never mentally recovered. He was diagnoses with dementia/Alzheimer's and it has been a steady, rapid decline,

I was told that it was exacerbated by his anesthesia. We r convinced that he had underlying symptoms that were not tested prior to his surgeries. Looking back, if I had known, We would have to make a choice of permanent severe pain or the possibility of advancing his condition. Quality of life is deminished either way.

It is not easy
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Not sure how to tell Reverseroles that I really appreciate the post. Yesterday went fairly well but this morning the BP was really high and the BP meds seem to make the confusion worse. Have several dr. appts for his this week and our son is coming We live in south Florida and our son in NC. A long trip but we will do as much as we can to always keep him at home. Today Jim decided he really likes the caregivers (that he thought were here to get rid of him earlier in the week). We must do what we can. I had a Mother who had Parkinson's and dementia 10 years ago and her Dr. suggested putting her in an assisted living facility. We did and I have regretted it. Won't do this as long as possible. For better or worse, in sickness or health we have been together 52 years.
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So sorry to hear about your husband. Anesthesia does cause a person to decline in most cases, happened to my Mom also after a 5 way bypass and hip surgery. You did what you thought was best and trusted the doctors. I also too my Mom home because she was going to get the best care possible. I felt if her head was happy, she would get better. She did, she not only walked again, she danced. Give him time and lots of love and hope for the best. Btw, its been 13 years since my moms heart surgery and 8 since her broken hip. She did great but had a stroke which took her voice and legs eventually. I still have her with me, still love her, and here she will stay.
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My husband walked into the ER at the advice of his hypertensive Dr. to have the Cardiologist on duty check him out. He had played golf, driven a car and been out to dinner the day before. He had exercised and seen a dr the day before ans was doing well but he is a 10 year Parkinson's Patient. His cardiologist was on vacation so he was sent to the ER. Simple EKG check. Due to a low pulse rate they decided to keep him over night. What we should have said was NO, instead he stayed and 4 doctors decided he needed a pacemaker. In hindsight his neurologist who was not even consulted said he should have at the very most had it done as an outpatient. He was in the hospital 4 days, given Atavan as a sedative because he wanted to get up to use the bathroom at night but they had put a condom catheter on him and he couldn't. I should have insisted that he be released but "Doctors should know best". As a Parkinson's patient he should not have been given Atavan PLUS he was also given Ambien at the same time (A sleeping pill known to cause hallucinations. He then the next morning had the pacemaker installed and of course was given a general anesthetic. He was totally hallucinatory for 3 days, could not open his eyes two days after surgery, no focus etc. He was released by the Hospital doctors and sent home by Ambulance stretcher only when I agreed to full time care 24/7. I hired a wonderful firm and brought him home as he would have been sedated if sent to rehab. The hospital INSISTED he be returned home as they had written his release orders. He now is mainly lucid during the day and is now walking with a walker (remember this is a man who was playing golf and walking without aide when he entered the ER) and has Sundowners at night. I most likely will never have my normal husband back.
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My Dad was showing some signs of confusion (very minor), but lived on his own and cooked, cleaned and drove. By confusion, it was sometimes forgetting what he was about to say - nothing significant. One night he called around 9:30pm and said that he needed to go to the hospital and would need a ride. I went over and took him in and he had a raging urinary tract and bladder infection (this causes some confusion as the infection can go into the brain), but the Emergency Doc also felt a blockage in his bowel. He had to have emergency surgery to untwist his bowel and in the process, the surgeon took out his appendix along with a piece of bowel and some adhesions. The first sign of trouble came when he was kept in recovery for 8 hours (we were told to expect one to two hours prior to the surgery). He seems foggy for a little while when he got to his room but then I got a call in the night to come to the hospital as he was being difficult. That was when we realized he was delusional. At first, we were told it would last 24-72 hours, but it actually was getting worse by the day. After a week, we were told that some people never really recover. We were devastated as we had truly believed this was a temporary situation. I happen to be a partner in Valentus Clinics, a company that focuses on Brain Optimization and we work with a few different technologies (advanced types of neurofeedback) with people who have had mild traumatic brain injuries, concussions, and other brain-based challenges. I asked the doctor if I could bring in the equipment and a technician to do sessions with my Dad. The Doctor allowed it as it's non-invasive and he knew it couldn't hurt. We did 6 sessions in the hospital - one 1.5 hour session per day - and after 6 sessions, his recovery was remarkable - he improved dramatically after the 5th session and even more after the 6th! We got him home (to my place) and are continuing to do sessions this week. He is currently 90% functional - aware of surroundings, day, place, what's going on, and can have a normal conversation. We still see that he is struggling with short term memory, which is a problem. We are hopeful that with a few more sessions, he will be able to return to his former self and life. There is hope....
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Before my Mom had her first colonsocpy at age 86, for a couple of years she showed signs of very, very slight dementia. So slight that I didn't even think it could be early signs. Then a few days before the procdure and the day of it, she showed signs of extreme stress and crying and so scared of the proess. Since it's only slight sedation ,she came out of it with great sucess--until the doctor called me into her office so speak to me Mom had cancerous tumor the size of a plum in her large colon and needed surgery to remove it along with 6" of her colon that had to be reattached.
When I told her this, the downward spiral of stress, panic and fear took over. The operation was a complete success; But it pushed her demetia over the edge like night and day.n The anesthesia caused somthing in her brain to lose connetions, along with the stress and fear of the surgery.Her AL became so much advanced it frightened me. Now she needed a psycidatric geriratoin for meds. But the meds only helped a little bit ajnd her AP kept advancing. So yes, I do believe that anesthesia doesn't cause AL, but it surely does something to an elderly's brain that intesfies and advanced the small symptoms that could already been there: I already read a lot of posts on this site that already have said the same things that I've said. Doctor's , or some of then will deny this. But you would know better becuse you, me, and others are the ones who take Mom and Dad home to take care of them, the doctors just move onto another patient and forget our parents. I have lost a lot of respect for doctor during the years of my parents at doctors offices and at countless ER visits; (I pray that things go smoother for you star 42. May the Lord bless you with His guidance and His spriritual wisdom.
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My Dad had a colonoscopy a year ago, and hasn't been the same since. He had some memory issues prior, but has been getting continually worse since. He had one in 2009, and they removed 1 polyp, and then suggested another one 2 years later, at 87, and wanting to do the "right" thing he agreed to it, after doing some research, I learned that alot of colonoscopies are performed on the elderly that shouldn't be, and if I knew then what I know now, would never have let my Dad have it.
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Its true as we all have experienced. After my Mothers hip surgery with having minor demtentia and living alone at the time, she didnt even know where she lived or anything within 7 weeks afterwards. She thought my house was hers and she is still here with us many years later. At the time of sugery the surgeon wanted to do a spinal on her to avoid these dementia/ anesthesia effects, (so it is true), but they claimed she had arthritis in her back so badly that they couldnt and had to put her under instead. Makes me wonder what it does to all of us, but it definately is not something to do in elders with any signs of dementia. 10 years ago after heart surgery her forgetfulness turned into dementia but she was still able to live independently, but after her hip surgery she was never the same. I am sorry to say I doubt any anesthesia is still in their systems causing it. Great he wants to see a psychiatrist, take him asap! (Most wont go) Good Luck
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Seems like every body's parent has the same story about anesthesia pushing an already close to the edge elderly, closer to major dementia. And I agree with Bhenson, the anesthesia doesn't "cause" the dementia, it just triggers it into a deeper stage. It sure did with my Mom. It was so obvious that it shocked me.
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Some great answers here -they ring for me. I see a mirror of my mom's quick plunge from very minor into severe dementia just from the stresses of lengthy hospital stays, sedation & nursing home over a very short period.
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My mother was forgetful such as not remembering the right word or a persons name, then 2 yr. ago she had surgery for a hernia (out patient procedure), the next day she was confused and even a week later confusion, not understanding simple info, confusing appts. My experience with dementia is a stressful situation pushes them forward such as a surgery. They can regain some of it back after things settle down, but my mother never did regain back to her baseline normal. She is now at stage 4 Alzheimer's. I wouldn't say the surgery caused it, I believe it was already there and the stress from having surgery pushed her further into the disease.
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Dear Star,
Before my Mom had a colonoscopy and the surgery to take out a cancerous tumor I did see very tiny signs of dementia. And I really mean tiny. She was still fully functional and could act and speak with clarity and go out shopping with me. But the stress created by all the procedures made her very, very slight dementia worsen almost like overnight. The difference from before both procedures was absolutely like night and day. Since then, her dementia got more and more pronounced and now she has full blown dementia. She still though, has great moments of clarity and recognizes every body. But she's lost the concept of time and even though I visit her every day and spend hours with her, by 5 pm she forgot that I came and calls me in tears asking me why I didn't visit her. But she also has great moments of brilliance, is not stupid and knows right from wrong. So I do believe that being under sedation for the colonoscopy and then anesthesia for the actual operation did "kick offf" the full blown dementia. I don't know why it happened to my Mom and other posts above, but it did happen with my Mom.
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It's quite common for anesthesia to cause temporary dementia, sometimes for up to six months. However, in the case of a person having undetected dementia prior to a surgery and anesthesia, it can be the trigger to bring the dementia out into the open. This is often the case with Lewy Body Dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's.
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My MIL experienced dementia and hallucinations for several days after being given anesthesia for an arteriogram. Her mind eventually cleared considerably, although she remained somewhat confused because she was in and out of the hospital several times in her last weeks of life.
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My husband went downhill after anesthesia and morphine. I had been seeing signs that something wasn't quite right, but after he had blood clots and received the morphine, it seemed to trigger the really bad hallucinations and delusions. I think the body is a fragile system and that something can tip the mind off the cliff if it was already teetering on the edge.
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This is a tricky subject as far as I have been able to tell, no one is 100% sure of the answer. My FIL "came down" with severe dementia immediately following the amputation of his first leg. His doctor said that anesthesia can only do it if there was or would be some future dementia anyway. As months passed my FIL's dementia faded so we were hopeful that his dementia was only from the general.

Unfortunately, he had more surgeries, the amputation of the second leg and other surgeries that were supposed to help the stumps heal properly. Each surgery put him back into severe dementia.

At the end he had not had a surgery for 9 months - ALSO- we had moved him to a different nursing home. The nursing home here took him off some of the meds that the other nursing home was using to keep him calm. The first nursing home would sedate him and wrap him in a cocoon blanket wrap that restricted his use of his arms. He looked a bit like an alien baby wrapped up like that with his eyes rolling back in his head from the meds.

So 9 months post general anesthesia, and 4 months off of sedation meds. his dementia symptoms were noticeably declining. Rather than pleading with everyone to "Please, please, help me, I need a ride" - all the time. He became aware of the current world around him. Answered questions in the present, and offered comments and participated in conversations.

The first thing that made us aware that his dementia was getting better was when we would notice him listening to conversations instead of only being involved in his own thoughts. There was an obvious difference in his demeanor.

My husband commented that each visit his mom lost mental ground and each visit his dad gained mental ground. His dad's diagnosis was "unspecific dementia" His mom's was vascular dementia.

Since FIL's dementia was making notable progress it would be hard to not conclude that the general anesthesias played a major role. We began to wonder if he would come all the way back to normal. He passed away due to an unrelated issue, so we will never know.
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My friend's mother got put under (a low dose) and when she woke up she was never the same. Major dementia. I'm not saying that is every case, but it was for her. I won't let my mom be put under for that reason.
I hope your husband does come out of it. Hugs to you.
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I have to say star, that I am NO doctor. I can, however, tell you from experience that anethesia can bring on the symptoms that were low lying before the surgery. I don't think it produces dementia though. I also don't know of anyone myself that has switched from having dementia to not having it. I don't want to be negative here because there are always exceptions, but all in all, I don't believe it's a common occurance if it occurs at all. I wish you the very best in this very difficult time. Hugs
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