Anesthesia Use In Kids Linked To Learning Disabilities

Tue, 10/04/2011 - 8:41am

When your kid needs surgery, your response is probably, “Do whatever is necessary to fix him NOW. We’ll worry about later, later.” But it turns out that putting a child under anesthesia may increase the risk of long-term damage to his or her ability to think.

A new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that exposure to anesthesia before age 2 may manifest in a form of cognitive impairment called apoptotic neurodegeneration. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First of all, the researchers found no greater risk in those subjects who had only been “put under” once. Multiple exposures to surgery/anesthesia, on the other hand, significantly increased the risk of developing learning disabilities later on in life.

The estimated incidence of learning disabilities, as measured at age 19, was 21.3% for kids who’d not had anesthesia, 23.6% for those exposed once, and 36.6% for those with multiple exposures, according to the study.

But what other factors might be at play? For starters, as noted in the study itself, “…the underlying condition necessitating the surgery or a coexisting disease that could confound the relationship between anesthesia/surgery and neurodevelopmental outcomes.”

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