The Daily Heart Beat

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“Pump Head”: Another Good Reason to Pay Attention to Heart Health

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(note loss of head)



Cognitive Impairment After Bypass Surgery

Difficulty thinking clearly is one sign of the cognitive impairment some bypass surgery patients experience after surgery. This is called post-perfusion syndrome, referring to the heart-lung machine used to support blood flow during surgery.

“The term that we used to use is ‘pump head, which is the effect on cerebral functioning of having been exposed to the bypass machine,” says cardiologist Dan Fintel, MD, a professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “There is some evidence of decline in cognitive function, which is generally reversible. For most people it improves within a few months.”

After a bypass surgery, patients may experience:

  • Stroke (5 to 6 percent of patients). “True stokes are the most feared complication of bypass surgery and particularly in the elderly, are the leading cause of morbidity after bypass,” notes Dr. Fintel.
  • Vision problems.. “I tell people not to go out and get new glasses or contacts for a few months because their vision will improve,” Fintel says.
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Slower thought processes
  • Difficulty making decisions or solving problems

The older the patient, the greater the risk of cognitive impairment, says Fintel. This may be partly because the process of cognitive impairment has already begun before bypass surgery in patients with heart disease


Written by heartcurrents

March 5, 2010 at 5:54 am

Posted in heart conditions

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