We report the cases of three elderly patients presenting with insidious mental impairment whilst receiving both lipophilic and hydrophilic beta-adrenoceptor blocking agents (propranolol and atenolol respectively). In each case marked improvement occurred on drug withdrawal. Two of our cases probably had early senile dementia of the Alzheimer's type and continued to exhibit signs of mild mental impairment, but the third was restored to normal functioning. We found no evidence of impaired perfusion to suggest a vascular basis for the effect or of depression. We believe that beta-blockade may cause or exacerbate mental impairment in the elderly.
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