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Survivors of cardiac arrest with good neurological outcome show considerable impairments of memory functioning 

Patrick Sulzgruber, Andreas Kliegel, Cosima Wandaller, Thomas Uray, Heidrun Losert, Anton N. Laggner, Fritz Sterzl, Matthias Kliegel

 

Abstract

Background

Deficits in cognitive function are a well-known dysfunction in survivors of cardiac arrest. However, data concerning memory function in this neurological vulnerable patient collective remain scarce and inconclusive. Therefore, we aimed to assess multiple aspects of retrospective and prospective memory performance in patients after cardiac arrest.

Methods

We prospectively enrolled 33 survivors of cardiac arrest, with cerebral performance categories (CPC) 1 and 2 and a control-group (n?=?33) matched in sex, age and educational-level. To assess retrospective and prospective memory performance we administrated 4 weeks after cardiac arrest the “Rey Adult Learning Test” (RAVLT), the “Digit-Span-Backwards Test”, the “Logic-Memory Test” and the “Red-Pencil Test”.

Results

Results indicate an impairment in immediate and delayed free recall, but not in recognition. However, the overall impairment in immediate recall was qualified by analyzing RAVLT performance, showing that patients were only impaired in trials 4 and 5 of the learning sequence. Moreover, working and prospective memory as well as prose recall were worse in cardiac arrest survivors. Cranial computed tomography was available in 61% of all patients (n?=?20) but there was no specific neurological damage detectable that could be linked to this cognitive impairment.

Conclusion

Episodic long-term memory functioning appears to be particularly impaired after cardiac arrest. In contrast, short-term memory storage, even tested via free-call, seems not to be affected. Based on cranial computed tomography we suggest that global brain ischemia rather than focal brain lesions appear to underlie these effects.

 

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