The commonly used anaesthetic isoflurane could kill brain cells and raise the risk of Alzheimer's, suggests a new study questioning the safety of the drug.
Isoflurane is an anaesthetic, which is inhaled and used when general anaesthesia is required.
Many people, especially the elderly, suffer from postoperative cognitive dysfunction after anaesthesia as well as scrambling and delirium that can last six hours or two weeks or months, reported the health portal HealthCentral.
'To me, a big dose of isoflurane mimics a stroke or a bang to the head, and you don't want that as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease at any age,' said Rudolph Tanzi of the Massachusetts General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease who led the study.
Tanzi's team exposed cells that had an amyloid-beta protein, a protein that restores brain function, to isoflurane for six hours.
The researchers found that isoflurane caused these cells to die. 'It also caused the cell to overproduce the toxic molecule responsible for the pathology of Alzheimer's disease, particularly amyloid-beta,' Tanzi said.
This is a warning, he said. 'Isoflurane may be one reason why the elderly are more prone to cognitive dysfunction following anaesthesia.'
The researcher believes that isoflurane should be avoided when possible. 'We don't have enough data yet to ban isoflurane... But I'm convinced enough that I won't let my mother have it. I would advise any family or friends to stay away from isoflurane.'