Is my great-grandmother's memory problems a result of her surgery or mini strokes?.

Shereen asked...

My great-grandmother went in for surgery on her aorta to fix a large aneurysm, right before they were about to do the surgery, they had to abort, as the live scan they were doing showed a very large aneurysm on her brain that they felt was more dangerous than her aortic aneurysm. We signed for the surgeon to remove the brain aneurysm instead. My great-grandmother went into surgery a very coherent, smart woman, she was completely healthy and fine aside from the aneurysms. When she woke up from surgery, she didn't know where she was or what day it was. She remembers every member of our family and can recall things that happened 30 years ago PERFECTLY, but cannot tell you what she ate this morning, she will make up something totally incorrect. She suffered multiple mini strokes after the surgery and we were not told until a day later. The doctor called it a "shower of strokes." They have no explanation for why she thinks she just had dinner with many of our dead relatives or why she wakes up and claims we're on a cruise when we're sitting in her hospital room.

We have had to put her in a rehab/nursing home. The problem is we do not know if this memory issue is related to the stroke or the after affects of brain aneurysm surgery. The surgeon inserted wires to clot the blood so it would never bleed. She looks so confused and she knows she is confused because she will ask me if it really happened after she tells me a story. Seeing her in this state is really taking a toll on me and my family. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Expert Answer

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Unfortunately, any intervention on a large aneurysm in an older person is fraught with complications. It sounds as if she suffered some small strokes when particle debris (probably cholesterol plaque) was gently dislodged from her arteries during the procedure. Also very likely is that she was suffering from a "delerium" as part of being an elderly lady in the hospital. This is extremely common. You did not list her age, but as she is a great-grandmother, I will assume that she is at least 80 years of age. This, coupled with such a major procedure, almost always leads to some degree of confusion while in the hospital. It almost always improves with time, so I would stay optimistic. Getting her back into a familiar surrounding, with familiar people, is the best treatment. She may never get back to 100%, but virtually all people who have "delerium" while in the hospital get a notable amount of recovery in the weeks and months that follow.

Also, to be clear, as a medical Neurologist, I rarely work in the area of aneurysms. For further information regarding her specific situation, I suggest asking her Neurosurgeon or Neuro-Interventionalist about the exact extent of any strokes that occurred at the time of the procedure.

Good luck!