Today’s Solutions: November 30, 2023

One common complication from general surgery, particularly in older patients, is post-surgery delirium. This can cause confusion, disorientation, or a sudden change in the mental abilities of patients. With how commonly this happens, it’s good news that researchers have discovered a pretty simple treatment for the condition. 

Duke University researchers found that fish oil triglycerides are effective at reducing brain inflammation and post-surgery delirium in mice. Not only that, but early tests on human tissue models show it could be effective with people too. 

“Delirium is a prevalent complication with significant implications,” says lead author Niccolò Terrando, associate professor in the department of anesthesiology at the Duke University School of Medicine.

“There is a very strong association between delirium and poorer outcomes, including mortality, especially in older and vulnerable adults,” Terrando says. “There is also evidence that suggests an episode of delirium can lead to an accelerated trajectory for further cognitive impairments and greater risk for developing dementia.”

The fish oil was administered to the mice via injection before surgery. After surgery, none of the mice injected with fish oil had any of the signs or pathology associated with delirium. The mice’s brains also experienced less inflammation. 

While this new therapy is promising, further tests are needed to see if this will be safe and effective with older patients. Researchers are hopeful that using fish oil could be an important change for surgery with older adults, for whom delirium can be particularly serious. 

“If we can generate a brain-on-chip environment with cells from a patient who might be at risk for delirium and use this tool as a stress test—as a way to interrogate specific brain-related biology that might become deranged after surgery—that would open new opportunities to treat patients for a specific pathway that might be dysfunctional,” Terrando says.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have been known to help reduce neurodegeneration along with many other health benefits. 

Source Study: British Journal of AnesthesiaProtective effects of omega-3 fatty acids in a blood-brain barrier-on-chip model and on postoperative delirium-like behavior in mice – British Journal of Anaesthesia (

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