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No Long-Term Effects Seen From Anesthesia in Infancy

WEDNESDAY, April 27 -- Exposing young children to a brief, single anesthetic does not seem to cause long-term harmful effects on the brain, a finding that should reassure parents, researchers say.

Previous studies in young animals have found evidence that anesthetics can cause developmental and behavioral problems, but whether the same is true in young children has been uncertain.

In this new study, researchers compared the academic performance of two groups of ninth-grade students in Denmark: 2,689 who had inguinal hernia repair before they were 1 year of age, and 14,575 in the general population.

There was no statistically significant difference in academic performance between the two groups, and the majority of students who had hernia repair in infancy showed no signs of neurological impairment, the investigators found.

The study is published in the May issue of the journal Anesthesiology.

"Fortunately, our study did not find a relation between neurodegeneration and anesthesia in young children. The findings should help reassure parents that if their child needs to undergo surgery, a minimal amount of anesthesia does not appear to influence subsequent education achievements later in life," study author Dr. Tom G. Hansen said in a journal news release.

"However, we cannot fully conclude that anesthetics are safe in all cases. More human data need to be collected to exclude effects in more particular domains of neurobehavioral outcome," he added.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and anesthesia.

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Posted: April 2011