Patients taking inhaled anaesthetics rather than injected ones could be more at risk of producing certain plaques which lead to Alzheimer's disease, scientists have warned.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine used pioneering nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology to explore how amyloid B (AB) is aggregated.
"Many people know of or have heard of an elderly person who went into surgery where they received anesthesia and when they woke up they had noticeable memory loss or cognitive dysfunction," said Pravat Mandal, the lead author of the study.
Previous test tube research in Pittsburgh has found the inhaled anesthetics halothane and isoflurane, as well as the intravenous anesthetic propofol, encouraged the growth and clumping of AB.
"Our prior research had shown in molecular models that anesthetics may play a role by causing amyloid peptides to clump togethersomething that is thought to signal the advancement of Alzheimer's disease," Dr Mandal added.
"In this study, we set out to see why this was happening and to determine if any one form of anesthesia might be a safer option than another."
As well as being an Alzheimer's cause, many people suggest a link between AB peptides and the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's.
The study, which appears in the Biochemistry journal, received some funding from the American Parkinson Disease Association and the American Health Assistance Foundation.