admin October 9, 2019

Background: Elderly patients with pre-existing cognitive impairment are susceptible to post-operative cognitive dysfunction (POCD). In this study, we investigated whether there is pre-existing local homogeneity and functional connectivity alteration in the brain before surgery for POCD patients as compared to that in non-POCD patients.

Methods: Eighty elderly patients undergoing major thoracic or abdominal surgeries were recruited. Resting-state functional MRI was scanned at least 1 day before surgery. Neuropsychological tests (NPTs) were performed before surgery and at discharge, respectively. Pre-operative regional homogeneity (ReHo) and resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) were compared between POCD patients and non-POCD patients, respectively. Partial correlation between NPTs and ReHo or RSFC was analyzed by adjusting for confounding factors.

Results: Significant difference (P < 0.001, Gaussian Random Field (GRF) correction which is a multiple comparisons correction method at cluster level, cluster size > 49) in ReHo between POCD patients and non-POCD patients was detected in right hippocampus/parahippocampus. Pre-operative RSFC between right hippocampus/parahippocampus and right middle/inferior temporal gyrus increased in POCD patients (P < 0.001, GRF correction for multiple comparisons) when compared with that in non-POCD patients.RSFC significantly correlated with composite Z-score (r = 0.46, 95% CI [0.234, 0.767], P = 0.002) or Digit Symbol Substitution Test Z-scores (r = 0.31, 95% CI [0.068, 0.643], P = 0.046) after adjusting for confounding factors.

Conclusions: The results suggest that premorbid alterations of spontaneous brain activity might exist in elderly patients who develop early POCD. The neural mechanism by which patients with pre-operative abnormal spontaneous activity are susceptible to POCD requires further study.

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