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Bypass not to blame for heart patients' mental decline
Date:5/19/2008

Heart patients often experience lasting problems with memory, language, and other cognitive skills after bypass surgery. However, these problems arent caused by the surgery itself or the pump used to replace heart function during surgery, a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers suggests. The findings may lead to better approaches to prevent cognitive decline regardless of which treatment heart disease patients receive.

The study, published in the May Annals of Neurology, compared cognitive function of patients who received cardiac bypass surgery with that of patients who received other treatments for coronary artery disease, including pharmaceuticals and stents. After testing all the study subjects periodically in a variety of cognitive areas for six years after their treatments, the researchers found that both groups experienced an almost identical decline in cognitive function. The results suggest that the disease itself, and not any particular treatment, is the cause for cognitive decline.

Previous studies have linked bypass surgery to patients mental decline, with many doctors blaming the bypass pump that keeps blood flowing through the body during surgery. This research led many doctors to avoid recommending surgery to their patients. However, Hopkins researcher Guy McKhann explains that previous studies hadnt compared patients who had bypass surgery to those who had other treatments instead. As such, its been unknown whether mental decline is a consequence of surgery using the bypass pump, heart troubles, part of the normal aging process, or another cause altogether.

To gather evidence, McKhann and other Hopkins researchers recruited 152 heart disease patients who were scheduled to undergo bypass surgery and 92 patients whose doctors planned to treat their heart disease in other ways, including stents and medications. The patients, mostly men, had an average age of about 64.

Before their treatments, the researchers ga
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Contact: Christen Brownlee
cbrownlee@jhmi.edu
410-955-7832
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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