HealthDay News — General anesthesia doesn’t seem to harm young children’s mental development, according to research published in the June 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The researchers looked at 105 healthy children younger than 3 who had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia. Between the ages of 8 and 15, researchers assessed the children’s IQ; language; behavior; and cognitive functions, including memory, learning, attention, and thinking speed.
The exposed children were no different than siblings who were not exposed to general anesthesia at a young age. The researchers observed no statistically significant differences in mean scores for memory/learning, motor/processing speed, visuospatial function, attention, executive function, language, or behavior.
“We need to take a closer look at the effect of anesthesia on cognitive function in girls, since most of the subjects in the group exposed to anesthesia were boys,” study author Lena Sun, MD, a professor of pediatric anesthesiology and pediatrics at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said in a Columbia news release. Also, the effects of repeated and prolonged exposure to anesthesia should be studied further, especially in children with serious medical conditions, she added.