Millions of children annually are exposed to anesthesia medications that have been shown to cause neurodegeneration in young animals, according to a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
A study in the November issue of the AAP’s journal, Pediatrics, examined the effects of these medications on the learning and behavior of young children who underwent surgery before age 2.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic followed a cohort of children born between 1976 and 1982 to mothers living in a single school district in Rochester, Minn. Each child who underwent a procedure requiring general anesthesia before his or her second birthday was matched with two unexposed control children from the cohort. School records were used to track which children developed learning disabilities.
Among 5,357 children in the cohort, 350 underwent procedures with general anesthesia before age 2. Despite controlling for co-morbidity, a learning disability developed in 36.6% of those with multiple exposures to general anesthesia and 23.6% of those with a single exposure. Among the unexposed controls, 21.3% developed a learning disability.
Exposure to anesthesia also appeared to affect the rate of children receiving an individualized education program for difficulties with speech and language, but had no effect on the need for individualized assistance for behavioral problems.
The authors concluded they cannot rule out the possibility that multiple exposures to anesthesia and surgery may adversely affect neurodevelopment. To download a PDF of the study, visit http://bit.ly/nZDoHj.