Cognitive Function in Older Patients and Their Stress Challenge Using Different Anesthesia Regimes

A Single Center Observational Study

Soeren Wagner; Martin Breitkopf; Elena Ahrens; Haobo Ma; Olivia Kuester; Christine Thomas; Christine A. F. von Arnim; Andreas Walther


BMC Anesthesiol. 2023;23(6) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: With increasing age older patients are at higher risk for cognitive decline after surgery. Even tailored anesthesia procedures in older patients remain a high risk for postoperative cognitive disorder. Additional stress derived from anxiety and anesthesia itself can negatively impact postoperative cognitive outcomes. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of general versus regional anesthesia on postoperative cognitive disorder and indicators of perioperative stress in elderly undergoing surgery.

Methods: In this single center prospective study between December 2014 and November 2015, 46 patients aged 50 to 85 years undergoing dermatology surgery were enrolled. Patients were stratified by receiving general versus regional nerve anesthesia. On three consecutive days, saliva cortisol levels were analyzed three times per day. Cognitive function was assessed on the day before and the day after surgery using comprehensive neuropsychological testing of multiple cognitive functions including memory, executive function, attention and processing speed.

Results: Comparing the regional anesthesia group (RAG, n = 28) with the general anesthesia group (GAG, n = 18) no significant difference in the postoperative cognitive function was observed. However, patients in the GAG had significantly higher postoperative cortisol levels when compared to patients in the RAG. In both groups, a peak of cortisol value was detected on the day of surgery, which was higher in the GAG in comparison to the RAG.

Conclusions: We did not observe a difference in postoperative cognitive function between patients undergoing regional or general anesthesia for dermatology surgery. However, we found lower cortisol level in the RAG. Based on these findings, future studies should investigate alternatives to reduce stress in a general anesthesia setting.

Trial Registration: ID: NCT02505815.