BACKGROUND: Delirium is a frequent complication after surgery in older adults and is associated with an increased risk of long-term cognitive impairment and dementia. Disturbances in functional brain networks were previously reported during delirium. We hypothesised that alterations in functional brain networks persist after remission of postoperative delirium and that functional brain network alterations are associated with long-term cognitive impairment.
METHODS: In this prospective, multicentre, observational cohort study, we included older patients who underwent clinical assessments (including the Trail Making Test B [TMT-B]) and resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI) before and 3 months after elective surgery. Delirium was assessed on the first seven postoperative days.
RESULTS: Of the 554 enrolled patients, 246 remained after strict motion correction, of whom 38 (16%) developed postoperative delirium. The rs-fMRI functional connectivity strength increased 3 months after surgery in the total study population (β=0.006; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.001-0.011; P=0.013), but it decreased after postoperative delirium (β=-0.015; 95% CI: -0.028 to 0.002; P=0.023). No difference in TMT-B scores was found at follow-up between patients with and without postoperative delirium. Patients with decreased functional connectivity strength declined in TMT-B scores compared with those who did not (β=11.04; 95% CI: 0.85-21.2; P=0.034).
CONCLUSIONS: Postoperative delirium was associated with decreased brain functional connectivity strength after 3 months, suggesting that delirium has a long-lasting impact on brain networks. The decreased connectivity strength was associated with significant cognitive deterioration after major surgery.
CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT02265263.
- Emergence Delirium
- Trail Making Test
- Prospective Studies
- Postoperative Complications
- Brain/diagnostic imaging
- Cohort Studies
- Risk Factors