The brain after heart surgery

Still catching up on brain-related news published while I was away last week, I came across “ ‘Bypass Brain’: How Surgery May Affect Mental Acuity” from the June 10 Wall Street Journal. The top half of the article sounds too confident about the effects of “pump head” or “bypass brain”—at least that’s my reaction after our reading our February Cerebrum article, “Your Brain and Heart Surgery,” by Dr. Guy McKhann and Brenda Patoine.

EECG and Brain Outline - Spotlightventually, the WSJ column does acknowledge that “recent studies suggest that the cognitive decline years later may be due more to the underlying artery disease than to the effects of surgery,” one of McKhann and Patoine’s main points.

Two themes from the Cerebrum article bear repeating: Doctors should very carefully evaluate patients who are at high risk for complications from bypass surgery, and patients should remember: “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.”

—Dan Gordon

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