Hysterectomy may be linked to brain function

December 06, 2018

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Rat model of hysterectomy finds the procedure may cause short term memory loss

Washington, DC -

Hysterectomy can impair some types of memory in the short term following the surgery, according to a rat study published in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology.

One in three women in the United States undergo a hysterectomy, or the surgical removal of the uterus, by age 60. A hysterectomy can cause some women to experience menopause, or the process a woman goes through that causes her monthly periods to end, earlier than they would have otherwise. The current view in the medical field is that the uterus has no function when it’s not in the pregnant state.

This study is the first of its kind to link the uterus to brain function by using a rat model of hysterectomy to show its effect on cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills.

“Our novel findings indicate that the nonpregnant uterus is not dormant and is in fact linked to brain function,” said the study’s senior author, Heather Bimonte-Nelson, Ph.D., Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. “We studied several different menopause surgeries and found that a hysterectomy may impair short-term memory in rats.”

Researchers developed a rat model of hysterectomy to assess the effects of surgically removing the uterus on brain function. They found that surgical removal of the uterus alone can impair some types of memory in the short term, two months after surgery. Removing the ovaries alongside the uterus did not result in a memory impairment, indicating a unique negative effect of hysterectomy on memory, and suggesting that the uterus and ovaries are part of a system which communicates with the brain for functions such as cognition.

“We hope these basic science findings will lead to more attention around how different menopause surgeries might impact the brain and its functioning in women, ultimately impacting their quality of life,” Bimonte-Nelson said. “The overarching goal of our research is to promote and discover optimal health outcomes for women throughout their entire lifespan.”

Other authors of the study include: Stephanie V. Koebele, Justin M. Palmer, Bryanna Hadder, Ryan Melikian, Carly Fox, and Isabel M. Strouse, students from Arizona State University and the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium in Phoenix, Ariz.; Dale DeNardo of Arizona State University; and Christina George, Emily Daunis, Adrianna Nimer, Loretta P. Mayer, and Cheryl A. Dyer of SenesTech, Inc. in Flagstaff, Ariz.

The research received funding support from the National Institute on Aging, the Arizona Department of Health Services, the National Institutes of Health and Arizona State University.

The study, “Hysterectomy Uniquely Impacts Spatial Memory in a Rat Model: A Role for the Nonpregnant Uterus in Cognitive Processes,” will be published online.

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