The One Surgery Risk Doctors Don’t Warn You About
If you have to have surgery, your doctor will typically advise you of possible complications, such as bleeding, pain, blood clots, infection, and even death. However, you may not hear about the risk of cognitive problems, such as memory loss and confusion, after anesthesia.
How Can Knee Surgery Change Your Brain?
Sandra didn’t know anything about the potentially toxic risk of general anesthesia when she went in for knee surgery. After the operation, her knee felt better, but she felt like she had brain fog and was afraid she was getting Alzheimer’s disease. She broke down in tears and called a psychiatrist for help. Years earlier, she had gotten a brain imaging scan using a technology called SPECT. Her mental healthcare professional suggested rescanning her to see if her brain had changed.
On the new scan, Sandra’s brain looked toxic and was dramatically worse in her frontal and temporal lobes, both of which are involved in memory and attention. It was clear that something had negatively affected her brain after that first scan.
What Research Says About General Anesthesia
Current research on general anesthesia is mixed, with some studies showing no lasting negative effects and others showing toxic effects, but the following two studies stand out.
1. In the journal Pediatrics, children who had undergone general anesthesia before the age of 4 had lower IQ, diminished language comprehension, and decreased gray matter in the back of their brains. This is very concerning.
2. A before-and-after SPECT study of patients who underwent coronary artery bypass surgery showed that 68% had diminished blood flow, which was linked to decreased verbal and visual memory six months later.
What makes this even more alarming is that low blood flow is a risk factor for mental illness. Low blood flow on brain SPECT imaging has been seen with depression, suicidal thoughts, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADD/ADHD, traumatic brain injury, hoarding, murder, substance abuse, and more. In fact, decreased cerebral blood flow is the #1 brain imaging predictor that a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Minimize Your Risk
If you have to undergo surgery, opt for local or spinal anesthesia whenever possible. If that is not an option, make sure you do everything you can to optimize your brain before going under the knife. And practice brain healthy habits after surgery to improve cognitive function.
To see what anesthesia does to the brain, look at Karen’s SPECT scans below. Karen discovered she had an aortic aneurysm and had to have surgery with general anesthesia. She had a prior SPECT scan and wanted to know what effect the anesthesia had on her brain, so she had another scan done shortly after the procedure. The post-anesthesia scan looked much worse than her original scan, which motivated her to work really hard to rehabilitate her brain. No doubt, the surgery had a very negative impact on her brain and mind, but that was recoverable with brain healthy habits. And her follow-up scan showed marked improvement.
For tips and strategies on how to prepare for a surgical procedure and how to recover more quickly, check out these 3 episodes of the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast in which Dr. Daniel Amen and his wife Tana Amen discuss her experience having a hysterectomy.
How to prepare for unexpected health emergencies.
How to recover quickly after a medical procedure.
What are the best pain management strategies after surgery?
At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging as part of a comprehensive evaluation to help our patients see and understand any underlying brain dysfunction due to toxins, such as anesthesia. We use an integrated brain-body approach to heal the brain and minimize any symptoms associated with exposure to toxins.
If you want to join the thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health and overcome symptoms, such as memory loss or brain fog, at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.