Recently researchers in Canada have found that the possibility of ‘silent’ or covert strokes becomes twice as high in seniors when they have elective, non-cardiac surgery.
A regular or overt stroke has symptoms that are well known. These may include speech problems or weakness in an arm that can last over 24 hours. A covert stroke, however, is only visible in neuro scans, such as an MRI.
0.5 percent of the population above the age of 65 will suffer from overt strokes worldwide every year post elective surgery. Alternatively, there is very little information, and data is available on the symptoms and impacts of a covert stroke post-surgery. These types of strokes can lead to serious cognitive decline, according to new data.
These results can be found in a study by NeuroVISION study in The Lancet.
Silent Strokes Leading to Cognitive Decline
Dr. PJ Devereaux, the co-principal investigator of the research done by NeuroVISION, said that covert or ‘silent’ strokes have a higher risk of happening after surgery in people 65 or above. The chances of an overt stroke with clear signs and symptoms are less common.
Dr, Devereaux and his fellow researchers found that one in 14 individuals suffered from covert strokes after a surgery that was elective and non-cardiac. This information tells us that around 3 million people suffer from this attack every year around the globe.
The study that was conducted by NeuroVISION involved 1,114 senior individuals, aged 65 and above. These individuals were from various places around the globe, including Asia, New Zealand, Europe, North America, and South America.
To look for signs of impacts of a covert or ‘silent’ stroke, all of the participants had an MRI scan within nine days post-surgery. Following this, researchers kept tabs on the participants for one year after the surgery. Doctors needed to gauge the cognitive ability of the participants at this stage.
The results revealed that individuals who suffered from covert or ‘silent’ strokes had specific symptoms within one year that hindered their cognitive abilities. They suffered from perioperative delirium (a restless behavior syndrome), or a transient ischemic attack (overt stroke). This is when comparing them to individuals who did not suffer from covert or ‘silent’ strokes post-surgery.
Surgery and Understanding the Issue of Cognitive Decline
Dr. Marko Mrkobrada, associate professor of medicine at Univerisity of Western Ontario, another lead member of the research team commented. He claims that surgery has become a vital part of practicing medicine over the past 100 years or so. It has vastly improved the quality of life of humanity around the world. Surgeons are now able to save lives and solve issues that were previously too hard to tackle without surgery. However, it is crucial to understand that surgery comes with plenty of risks itself that need to be understood and solved.
This research by NeuroVISION has helped in the understanding of vascular brain injuries post-surgery. The insights have strongly aided doctors in understanding the risks involved with cognitive decline. These risks increase at older ages. These results are hopefully the beginning of solutions that will help tackle this issue.