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Ulus Travma Acil Cerrahi Derg. 2020 Jan;26(1):30-36. doi: 10.14744/tjtes.2019.04135.

Comparison of epidural analgesia combined with general anesthesia and general anesthesia for postoperative cognitive dysfunction in elderly patients.

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Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, İstanbul University İstanbul Faculty of Medicine, İstanbul-Turkey.
Department of Neurology, Behavioral Neurology and Movement Disorders Unit, İstanbul University İstanbul Faculty of Medicine, İstanbul-Turkey.



Cognitive dysfunction in the early postoperative course is common for the elderly population. Anesthetic management may affect postoperative cognitive decline. Effective analgesia, early recovery and modulation of the stress response are advantages of neuraxial blocks. This study aims to compare the effects of general anesthesia and the combination of general anesthesia with epidural analgesia for postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD). We hypothesized that neuraxial block combined with general anesthesia (GA) would have a favorable influence on POCD prevention.


Patients above 60 years undergoing non-cardiac surgery were included in this randomized, prospective study and randomized into two groups. Patients in the first group (GI) were treated under GA, whereas in the second group (GII), epidural analgesia was combined with GA. Patients' cognitive function was assessed before and one week after surgery using a neuropsychological test battery. POCD was defined as a drop of one standard deviation from baseline on two or more tests.


A total of 116 patients were allocated for the final analysis. Demographic and operative data were similar between groups, except maximum pain scores, which were significantly higher in GI than GII (4.9±2.8 vs. 1.7±1.7; p<0.001, respectively). The incidence of POCD was comparable between groups (26% in GI and 24% in GII). Memory performance, visuospatial functions, and language skills tests were significantly higher in GII compared to GI.


General anesthesia and epidural analgesia combined with general anesthesia resulted in similar POCD in elderly patients undergoing abdominal surgery. However, in combined anesthesia group memory, language skills and visuospatial functions appeared to be better preserved. Effective pain control might contribute to preventing cognitive decline in some domains.

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