pump head (1996)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sun Aug 28 04:39:27 UTC 2005

* pump head, n. 'cognitive impairment suffered after heart surgery (esp.
coronary artery bypass grafting requiring use of a heart-lung machine)'

1996 _My husband had CABG -HELP!_ in _sci.med.nursing_ (Usenet newsgroup)
11 Aug., He is experiencing pump psychosis, or as we call it in the
business "pump head".

1999 _American Health Line_ 7 Jan. (Factiva) In addition, they suffer from
what doctors refer to as "pump head" -- memory loss and an inability to
concentrate that some believe leads to clinical depression.

1999 _Philadelphia Inquirer_ 16 Nov. C1 (philly.com) Some patients have
strokes, which leave them partially paralyzed, or suffer other neurologic
problems. "We call it 'pump head,'" he said.

2000 _N.Y. Times_ 19 Sep. F4/3 Whatever the cause, the syndrome is so
pervasive that heart surgeons and cardiologists have coined a term for it:
pump head. ... "I think pump head is a misnomer," he said. "The
implication is that the cognitive decline is due to the pump, and that if
you avoid it you're safe, but that doesn't appear to be the case."

2003 _N.Y. Times_ 13 May F1 (Factiva) Like its name, pumphead, the brain
injury problem is rarely mentioned in front of patients, and few ask about

2003 _Sci. American_ 289(1) July 76 (sciam.com) I didn't know it at the
time, but I was suffering from what surgeons among themselves call
"pumphead," an all-too-apt appellative that refers to the dimwitted state
in which patients seem to linger after being hooked up to a heart-lung
machine for open-heart or, in my case, valve surgery.

* pump head, n. 'patient suffering from cognitive impairment after heart

2001 _The VivaVine_ July/Aug. 9 Unfortunately, the heart patient often
experiences brain damage from the ordeal. The phenomenon is so common that
they even have a name for its victims: "pump heads."

2003 _N.Y. Times_ 13 May F1 (Factiva) Each year, 300,000 Americans have
bypass surgery to improve blood flow to their hearts. Most of the
operations succeed. But a minority of patients leave the hospital confused
or forgetful, unable to think clearly or unable to concentrate.
"Pumpheads," some doctors privately call those patients, and the
information shows that a third or more may be affected.

2003 _U.S. News & World Report_ 1 Dec. 68 (Factiva) Cardiac surgeons even
refer to patients who are depressed after being put on the heart-lung
machine as "pump heads."

2004 J.S. BORTHWICK in _Intensive Scare Unit_ 105 I heard someone outside
my door calling me a 'pump head,' which is a lovely term for people whose
brains have been deprived of oxygen or something.

--Ben Zimmer

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