Mind injuries after cardiac surgery

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Abstract

After cardiac surgery, delirium, cognitive dysfunction, depression, or anxiety disorders frequently occur, and profoundly affect patients’ prognosis and quality of life. This narrative review focuses on the main clinical presentations of cognitive and psychological problems (’mind injuries’) that occur postoperatively in absence of ascertainable focal neurologic deficits, exploring their pathophysiological mechanisms and possible strategies for prevention and treatment. Postoperative cognitive dysfunction is a potentially devastating complication that can involve several mechanisms and several predisposing, intraoperative, and postoperative risk factors, which can result in or be associated to cerebral microvascular damage. Postoperative depression is influenced by genetic or psychosocial predisposing factors, by neuroendocrine activation, and by the release of several pro-inflammatory factors. The net effect of these changes is neuroinflammation. These complex biochemical alterations, along with an aspecific response to stressful life events, might target the function of several brain areas, which are thought to represent a trigger factor for the onset of depression.

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