HealthDay News — For older adults, declines in memory after heart surgery and cardiac catheterization are similar, according to a study published online Dec. 18 in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

Elizabeth L. Whitlock, M.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues compared memory change after participant-reported cardiac catheterization or cardiac surgery among community-dwelling adults aged 65 years and older. Patient reports were collected biennially between 2000 and 2014. The researchers modeled preprocedure to postprocedure change in composite memory score, derived from objective memory testing. The predicted memory change was used to estimate the impact on ability to manage medications and finances independently to quantify clinical relevance.

The researchers found that 62 percent of the 3,105 participants underwent catheterization and 38 percent underwent operation. Compared with participants undergoing cardiac catheterization, surgery participants had little difference in preprocedure to postprocedure memory change (−0.021 memory units; 95 percent confidence interval, −0.046 to 0.005 memory units; P = 0.12) in adjusted analyses. The point estimate for memory decline would confer an absolute 0.26 or 0.19 percent decrease in ability to manage finances or medications, respectively, if the relationship was causal, corresponding to 4.6 additional months of cognitive aging. The researchers found no correlation for cardiac surgery with subjective memory decline (adjusted odds ratio, 0.93; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.74 to 1.18; P = 0.55).

“The population-level impact of cardiac surgery, compared with cardiac catheterization, on intermediate-term cognition, if it exists, is likely to be subtle,” the authors write.

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