The commonly used general anaesthetic isoflurane may cause brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease, suggests a Massachusetts General Hospital study in the Journal of Neuroscience.
In laboratory tests on brain cells, the researchers found that isoflurane increases the activity of an enzyme that causes the cells to die and promotes the development of amyloid protein, BBC News reported.
Alzheimer's disease is characterised by the formation of amyloid-beta protein plaques, which kill brain cells.
"If future studies support these findings, they suggest that caution be used in choosing this anaesthetic for elderly patients, who already are at increased risk for Alzheimer's and for postoperative cognitive dysfunction," said research leader Dr Zhongcong Xie of the Massachusetts General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease.
The team plans to conduct further research to study if these same effects occur in patients.
Some previous studies have suggested an association between general anaesthesia and an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, BBC News reported. It's also known that a small percentage of patients suffer a form of dementia after surgery. – (HealthDayNews)