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Pediatric Anesthesia Exposure Does Not Affect Development Outcomes

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 06 Dec 2018
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Image: A new study found general anesthesia is not detrimental to child development (Photo courtesy of Getty Images).
Image: A new study found general anesthesia is not detrimental to child development (Photo courtesy of Getty Images).
A new study finds that children who underwent surgery that required general anesthesia (GA) before primary school were at the same risk level as their biological siblings who did not have surgery.

Researchers at the University of Toronto (Canada), the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Canada), and other institutions conducted a retrospective cohort study involving 10,897 sibling pairs (5-6 years of age) with the same birth mother who had early development instrument (EDI) data completed, in order to evaluate the association between surgery with GA and child development. The study included all eligible children in public and Catholic schools in the province of Ontario (Canada) from 2004 through 2012.

In all, data were available for 2,346 sibling pairs that had only one sibling exposed to surgery. After adjustment for confounding factors, no significant differences in early developmental vulnerability between exposed or unexposed children (22.6% versus 20%, respectively) were found. There were also no significant differences for each of the five major EDI domains (language and cognitive development; physical health and well-being; social knowledge and competence; emotional health and maturity; and communication skills and general knowledge). The study was published on November 5, 2018, in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Children who had surgical procedures that require general anesthesia before primary school entry were not found to be at increased risk of adverse child development outcomes, compared with their biological siblings who did not have surgery,” concluded lead author anesthesiologist James O’Leary, MD, of the Hospital for Sick Children, and colleagues. “These findings further support that anesthesia exposure in early childhood is not associated with detectable adverse child development outcomes.”

GA is a state produced when a patient receives intravenous (IV) and inhaled agents to allow adequate surgical access to the operative site. It is intended to promote amnesia, analgesia, muscle paralysis, and sedation in a controlled, reversible state of unconsciousness that enables a patient to tolerate surgical procedures that would otherwise inflict unbearable pain, potentiate extreme physiologic exacerbations, and result in unpleasant memories.

Related Links:
University of Toronto
Hospital for Sick Children

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