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Anesthesia

Memory loss after anesthesia

09/11/2006

Question:

I am 4 weeks postop anterior lumbar disectomy and I only remember a little in the past 4 weeks sometimes even remembering what I did yesterday. What is wrong?

Answer:

Thanks for your question. Losing your memory is scary. You can be reassured however that being unable to recall much of what you experienced during the initial part of your treatment is fairly normal. But you should be seeing a gradual improvement over time. If not you should be evaluated and get an objective assessment so check in with your primary care doctor. There are a variety of simple tests that can be done.

It is certainly possible that your anesthetic may have lingering effects on your mental function, including memory. Studies are revealing that, particularly in the elderly, postoperative cognitive deficit (POCD) is probably a real issue. Unfortunately it is hard to know whether it is the anesthetic medicines, or the stress of surgery that accounts for these changes. The stress of surgery involves things like nutrition, tissue breakdown and repair, sleep patterns, immune function and mood, pain, and interaction between medications. All these factors can in turn affect your thinking and memory and are all things that should be addressed now to make sure you have the best chance at a full recovery in mind, body and spirit.

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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