Does open heart surgery affect cognitive abilities?

October 12, 2018, American Geriatrics Society

Most people who need open heart surgery to repair damaged heart valves are aged 65 or older. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that nearly 8 million people have had heart surgeries. However, we don't fully understand the effects of heart surgery on an older adult's cognition (the ability to remember, think, and make decisions).

In 2014, an estimated 156,000 valve surgeries were performed in the US. The most common condition for valve surgery was aortic stenosis. The aorta is the heart valve that controls blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body. Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve doesn't allow blood to flow out of the heart properly. Adults 65 and older represent most of the people who need aortic valve surgery, and the number of older adults with is expected to double by 2050.

Understanding how heart valve surgery may affect your cognition is important for older adults. To learn more, researchers reviewed studies to see how patients' cognition changed before and after heart valve surgery. They also looked at whether surgeries on two types of heart valves, the mitral or the aortic, were associated with better or worse outcomes. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

To learn more, researchers reviewed 12 studies that included hundreds of people who had heart valve surgery. In each of the studies, participants had been tested before and after surgery to determine their ability to remember, think, and make decisions.

The researchers found that within the first month after valve surgery, people in the studies experienced some cognitive decline compared to before the surgery. Up to six months after surgery, patients' cognitive health had largely returned to normal. One-third of the studies included in this review even found small improvements in cognition half a year after surgery.

The researchers also learned that aortic valve surgery was associated with more early cognitive problems than mitral valve surgery.

People who had experienced a mild decline from their one-month check-up to their check-ups from two to six months after surgery. But people who had aortic valve surgery experienced poorer cognitive function the month after surgery, although they tended to improve after that.

Importantly, the researchers also learned that aortic valve patients were, on average, a decade older than mitral valve patients (68 years vs. 57). Because the people who had aortic valve surgeries were older, their increased age might have affected their cognitive decline.

The researchers concluded that heart valve surgery patients are at risk of cognitive problems up to six months after surgery. People having surgery—the majority of whom are older adults—are at greater risk of early cognitive decline within the first month after surgery than people having mitral . However, cognitive health in both groups appears largely to return to what it was before surgery within the six months after .

Explore further: Study shows low mortality and stroke risks for minimally invasive aortic valve replacements

More information: Mark A. Oldham et al, Cognitive Outcomes After Heart Valve Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2018). DOI: 10.1111/jgs.15601

Related Stories

Study shows low mortality and stroke risks for minimally invasive aortic valve replacements

October 5, 2017
An analysis of more than 1,000 minimally invasive aortic valve replacements and more than 400 additional associated procedures over a five-and-a-half year period performed by Dr. Joseph Lamelas, professor and associate chief ...

FDA expands approval for 'valve in valve' aortic replacement

March 31, 2015
(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that use of the CoreValve "valve-in-valve" aortic replacement has been expanded to include people at extreme risk for serious complications of traditional ...

Keyhole may trump robotic surgery for mitral valve repair

June 18, 2018
Keyhole surgery for heart valve repair may trump robotic surgery, because it is associated with lower rates of subsequent heart flutter and blood transfusions, and a shorter hospital stay, reveals research looking at the ...

FDA approves mechanical heart valve for newborns

March 7, 2018
(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the world's smallest mechanical heart valve, designed to be used in newborns and other young infants with heart defects.

Elderly discharged home do well after heart valve surgery

September 4, 2012
(HealthDay)—People over the age of 80 generally do well after aortic or mitral valve replacement surgery, especially if they are discharged home, according to a study published in the September issue of The Annals of Thoracic ...

Neurological events with TAVI and surgical valve replacement in intermediate-risk patients

May 18, 2017
Patients at intermediate risk for surgery have lower risk of early neurological complications including stroke with transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) than with surgical aortic valve replacement, showed results ...

Recommended for you

Omega 3 fatty acids found in seafood linked to healthy aging

October 17, 2018
Higher blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids found in seafood are associated with a higher likelihood of healthy ageing among older adults, finds a US study published by The BMJ today.

No sweat required: Team finds hypertension treatment that mimics effect of exercise

October 16, 2018
Couch potatoes rejoice—there might be a way to get the blood pressure lowering benefits of exercise in pill form.

New model suggests cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring possible using pulse waves

October 16, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in China and the U.S. has developed a model that suggests it should be possible to create a cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitor based on measuring pulse waves. ...

Why heart contractions are weaker in those with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

October 16, 2018
When a young athlete suddenly dies of a heart attack, chances are high that they suffer from familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Itis the most common genetic heart disease in the US and affects an estimated 1 in 500 ...

Novel genetic study sheds new light on risk of heart attack

October 12, 2018
Loss of a protein that regulates mitochondrial function can greatly increase the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack), Vanderbilt scientists reported Oct. 3 in the journal eLife.

Researchers say ritual for orthodox Jewish men may offer heart benefits

October 11, 2018
A pilot study led by researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine suggests Jewish men who practice wearing tefillin, which involves the tight wrapping of an arm with leather banding as part of daily ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.