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Association between surgery and rate of incident dementia in older adults: a population-based retrospective cohort study


Background — The risk of incident dementia after surgery in older adults is unclear. The study objective was to examine the rate of incident dementia among older adults after elective surgery compared with a matched nonsurgical control group.

Methods — We conducted a population-based, propensity-matched retrospective cohort study using data from linked administrative databases in Ontario, Canada. All community-dwelling individuals aged 66 years and older who underwent one of five major elective surgeries between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2011 were included. Each surgical patient was matched 1:1 on surgical specialty of the surgeon at consultation, age, sex, fiscal year of entry, and propensity score with a patient who attended an outpatient visit with a surgeon of the same surgical specialty but did not undergo surgery. Patients were followed for up to 5 years after cohort entry for the occurrence of a new dementia diagnosis, defined from administrative data. Cause-specific hazard models were used to estimate the hazard ratio (HR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for the association between surgery and the hazard of incident dementia. Subgroup and sensitivity analyses were performed.

Results — A total of 27,878 individuals (13,939 matched pairs) were included in the analysis. A total of 640 (4.6%) individuals in the surgical group and 965 (6.9%) individuals in the control group developed dementia over the 5-year follow-up period. Individuals who underwent surgery had a reduced rate of incident dementia compared with their matched nonsurgical controls (HR 0.88; 95% CI 0.80–0.97; p = 0.01). This association was persistent in most subgroups and after sensitivity analyses.

Conclusions — Elective surgery did not increase the rate of incident dementia when compared with matched nonsurgical controls. This could be an important consideration for patients and surgeons when elective surgery is considered.



Reich KM, Gill SS, Eckenhoff R, Berger M, Austin PC, Rochon PA, Nguyen P, Goodarzi Z, Seitz DP. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2024; Jan 2 [Epub ahead of print].

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