Infants that receive regional anesthesia vs. general anesthesia for surgery may have better recovery, data from two studies have shown. Findings from the studies are published in Anesthesiology.

Researchers from the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, studied the differences between both types of anesthesia by measuring the presence of apnea following hernia surgery, the most common procedure for infants. General anesthesia is given by inhaling medicine through an anesthesia mask or given intravenously. Regional anesthesia numbs a large part of the body; local anesthesia is placed around the spinal cord through an injection or a catheter.

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Among the 722 total infants studied, the team found that regional anesthesia lowered the risk of significant apnea in the first 30 minutes post-surgery. There was little evidence seen for a difference in late apnea. Researchers also evaluated 339 patients who underwent spinal anesthesia for factors affecting the failure or success of the anesthetic technique. They found that 16.8% of cases required an additional form of anesthesia and associated the provider’s experience in giving spinal anesthesia as a factor with failure.

These studies are part of an ongoing research on the long-term effects of anesthesia on neurodevelopmental outcomes.

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