SUNDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) -- A certain gene appears to
increase risk for mental decline after heart surgery, a new study
Between 30 percent and 50 percent of heart surgery patients have
a decrease in mental function after heart surgery, but it hasn't
been known if this is a side effect of the surgery and anesthesia,
or a progression of existing neurologic disease, the researchers
Their study included 233 elderly, white patients whose mental
function was assessed before heart surgery and five years
Those with the APOE4 gene were more likely than those without
the gene to experience long-term memory loss, attention problems
and difficulty understanding spoken or written words five years
after the surgery, according to the study scheduled for
presentation Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society
of Anesthesiologists in San Francisco.
"Our findings suggest that the long-term cognitive decline
previously seen after surgery is related more to the patient's
genetic makeup than to the surgery itself," Dr. Karsten Bartels,
who helped conduct this study while a fellow in cardiothoracic
anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Duke University
Medical Center, said in a society news release.
"Knowing which patients have the APOE4 genotype can help doctors
assess the risk for cognitive problems following surgery,
ultimately allowing patients to make better-informed decisions and
permitting doctors to direct strategies to protect the brain after
surgery," he explained.
People are born with the APOE4 (apolipoprotein E4) gene, which
can be detected in a blood test. Apolipoproteins play an important
role in cholesterol metabolism and inflammation.
APOE4 has been shown to increase the risk of developing
Data and conclusions presented at medical meetings are typically
considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more