Exploring postoperative cognitive dysfunction and delirium in noncardiac surgery using MRI: A systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Surgical patients are at high risk of developing postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) and postoperative delirium (POD). POCD and POD are associated with increased morbidity and mortality and worsening functional outcomes leading to severe socioeconomic consequences for the patient and the society in general. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers a unique opportunity to study the anatomy and function of the brain. MRI thus plays an important role in elucidating the neuronal component of POCD and POD. Our aim has been to systematically gather MRI findings that are related to POCD and POD. Systematic searches were conducted in PubMed, EMBASE, and PsycINFO: MRI studies investigating patients with POCD as identified by perioperative cognitive testing or patients with delirium identified postoperatively by the Confusion Assessment Method. A total of ten eligible papers were included with a total of 269 surgical patients, 36 patient controls, and 55 healthy controls who all underwent MRI examination. These studies suggested that reduction of thalamic and hippocampal volumes and reduction of cerebral blood flow may be associated with POCD, while presurgery/preexisting and postoperative white matter pathology may be associated with POD. However, the evidence from these studies is rather weak. Future MRI studies are warranted to verify the current findings.


External organisations
  • Copenhagen University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging
  • Neurology
Original languageEnglish
Article number1281657
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalNeural Plasticity
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar 18
Publication categoryResearch