A group of investigators at the University of Oregon Medical School suggests that the delirium and hallucinations experienced by some patients after open heart surgery may be due to the obstruction of small vessels by platelet aggregates.
There is experimental evidence to indicate that such aggregates may obstruct or embolize the smaller vessels of the brain and lungs.
The source of these emboli would be the transfused blood used during surgery which has been shown previously to develop dense platelet aggregates during storage, according to C. Conrad Carter, MD.
Dr. Carter and co-workers Naunihal Singh, MD; Louis Lino, PhD; and Paul H. Blachly, MD, based their hypothesis on observations made in the postoperative course of ten patients who underwent open heart surgery. The ten patients ranged in age from 31 years to 68 years. The duration of surgery was from 2 to 4 hours.
A psychiatric and neurological examination was