Nerve Stimulation in Mice Suggests New Way to Reduce Delirium After Surgery

Thursday, October 11, 2018
elderly patient in hospital bed.

For adults over age 65, surgical complications can dampen not only their physical health but also their mental sharpness, with more than half of high-risk cases declining into delirium.

In research published this week in the journal Brain Stimulation, Duke University scientists show in a mouse model that a current treatment for seizures can also reverse brain inflammation, such as inflammation after surgery, and the subsequent confusion or cognitive decline that results.

The therapy involves minimally invasive stimulation of the vagus nerve using small electrical pulses comparable to a cell phone’s vibrations.

The scientists used a Doppler ultrasound to guide the placement of a needle that delivers the electrical pulse, avoiding nearby delicate structures such as the carotid artery. Researchers hope to refine the technique into a completely non-invasive approach to preventing cognitive decline when seniors and other at-risk patients have surgery.

“Delirium is now recognized as the most common complication in older adults after surgery,” said Niccolò Terrando, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology at Duke and the study’s senior author. “For most patients, it lasts a few days and resolves on its own. For some, it can lead to severe complications and even contribute to long lasting cognitive deficits, like dementia.”

Read complete article at Duke Health News