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Anesthesiology. 2010 Feb;112(2):305-15. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e3181ca33a1.

Isoflurane does not affect brain cell death, hippocampal neurogenesis, or long-term neurocognitive outcome in aged rats.

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Department of Anesthesia, University of California-San Francisco, 513 Parnassus Ave., San Francisco, California 94143, USA.



Roughly, 10% of elderly patients develop postoperative cognitive dysfunction. General anesthesia impairs spatial memory in aged rats, but the mechanism is not known. Hippocampal neurogenesis affects spatial learning and memory in rats, and isoflurane affects neurogenesis in neonatal and young adult rats. We tested the hypothesis that isoflurane impairs neurogenesis and hippocampal function in aged rats.


Isoflurane was administered to 16-month-old rats at one minimum alveolar concentration for 4 h. FluoroJade staining was performed to assess brain cell death 16 h after isoflurane administration. Dentate gyrus progenitor proliferation was assessed by bromodeoxyuridine injection 4 days after anesthesia and quantification of bromodeoxyuridine+ cells 12 h later. Neuronal differentiation was studied by determining colocalization of bromodeoxyuridine with the immature neuronal marker NeuroD 5 days after anesthesia. New neuronal survival was assessed by quantifying cells coexpressing bromodeoxyuridine and the mature neuronal marker NeuN 5 weeks after anesthesia. Four months after anesthesia, associative learning was assessed by fear conditioning. Spatial reference memory acquisition and retention was tested in the Morris Water Maze.


Cell death was sporadic and not different between groups. We did not detect any differences in hippocampal progenitor proliferation, neuronal differentiation, new neuronal survival, or in any of the tests of long-term hippocampal function.


In aged rats, isoflurane does not affect brain cell death, hippocampal neurogenesis, or long-term neurocognitive outcome.

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