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Anesthesia

Prolonged anesthesia - personality changes

08/24/2006

Question:

My now 21 year old daughter underwent an almost 12 hour heart cath/electrial mapping under general anesthesia 2 years ago. At first we joked that afterwards she could run faster and was now cold natured, instead of hot. This past March, we discovered that our previously loving, selfless child had been charging at least $15,000 on my credit cards that I thought she was pay for me every month. This is also the child who once said she wanted a house full of children. She can barely tolerate children in her presence now. She is very self-centered. I am not looking to blame anyone for these problems, only to see if there are others who have experienced similar changes if there is anything we can do to get our girl back?

Answer:

This must be awful for you. I can easily understand why you might think the anesthesia responsible. There is no scientific evidence I am aware of that a prolonged anesthetic can cause the type of personality change you describe. I think it is more likely that your daughter is suffering from some type of psychiatric problem, such as bipolar disorder, which unfortunately has happened to coincide with the heart procedure.

How long after the procedure did these changes occur? If the unusual behavior started immediately afterwards I suppose there might be reason to inquire whether things went poorly during the heart procedure. If not, I think it is particularly unlikely to have had anything to do with the psychologic changes.

If there were serious problems, such as a long period of low blood pressure or low oxygen you would very likely have been told about this already. And, even if there were major problems, such events are thought usually to produce profound brain damage, not personality or behavioral change.

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Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University