Central nervous system complications of cardiac surgery.
The neurological complications of cardiac surgery are associated with significantly increased mortality, morbidity and resource utilization. The use of new surgical techniques, introduction of wider indications for surgery and increased public expectation has led to an increase in the average age of cardiac surgical patients and an increased incidence of repeat procedures. With these changes has come an increased risk of neurological complications. The likelihood of perioperative stroke varies between 1% and 5% in most published series and is dependent on a multitude of risk factors. Of these, patient age, aortic atheroma, symptomatic cerebrovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and the type of surgery appear to be most important. Cognitive deterioration after cardiac surgery is far more common, affecting as many as 80% of patients a few days after surgery and persisting in one-third. Despite an increase in the age of the cardiac surgical population, the reported incidence of cognitive dysfunction after cardiac surgery seems to have fallen in recent years. Whether this is a real phenomenon or the result of changes in the use of psychometric testing and the definition of cognitive decline remains unclear. Recognition that certain equipment, surgical practices and patient factors contribute to neurological morbidity has prompted 'neuroprotective' interventions. Some of these (e.g. arterial line filtration and alpha-stat management) have been shown to improve outcome. Despite these measures, a small number of patients will inevitably sustain cerebral injury during otherwise successful cardiac surgery. Although pharmacological neuroprotection may, in the future, offer some of these patients an improved outcome, it is unlikely that any single agent will prevent neurological injury. In the meantime, the CNS complications of cardiac surgery remain a fertile area of research.
Arrowsmith, JE; Grocott, HP; Reves, JG; Newman, MF
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