Study: Playing brain games before surgery helps improve recovery


The practice of “neurobics” prepares the brain for surgery and prevents postoperative delirium

(November 11, 2020, COLUMBUS, Ohio) – In recent years, doctors have embraced “pre-habilitation” for patients who have led to surgery, which can include exercise, a healthy diet, and control of any chronic conditions. . However, none of these interventions address postoperative delirium, a complication particularly common in older patients that causes confusion leading to longer hospital stays, slower recoveries, and even an increased risk of death. Now, a new study by the researchers of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center finds that the brain can be prepared for surgery just as the body can, keeping the mind active and energized.

Experts call this “neurobic”: brain exercises designed to create new neural pathways and increase cognition. To study the effects of neurobics on the prevention of delirium, the researchers provided 251 pre-surgical patients over the age of 60 with a tablet loaded with a brain game app and asked them to play an hour of games each. day for 10 days prior to a major procedure that requires general anesthesia.

“Not all patients played the games as much as we asked for, but those who played none saw benefits,” said Dr. Michelle Humeidan, an anesthetist at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and lead author of the study. “Patients who practiced neurobia were 40% less likely to experience postoperative delirium than those who did not, and the results improved the more hours they played.”

Those who played five to 10 hours reduced their risk by more than half, and those who played the prescribed 10 hours or more had a 61 percent reduction in delirium rates compared to the control group.

“Using the app was ideal for this study because we could easily track how long and how often the patients played,” said Humeidan. “But things like reading the newspaper, doing crossword puzzles or whatever you like to challenge your mind for an hour a day would probably help prevent delusion and improve your fitness.”

Those who did not play brain games prior to surgery were also more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit during their postoperative hospital stay. Future research will explore exactly how brain games affect mechanisms in the brain and how much patients should practice neurobics to reap the full benefits.

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