Researchers have discovered a possible link between anesthesia and ADHD. According to a new study, young children and infants who receive anesthesia may be at a greater risk of developing learning disabilities and cognitive impairment than children who do not receive anesthesia. The evidence was presented at the SmartTots: Pediatric Anesthesia Neurotoxicity panel at the International Anesthesia Research Society annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C. “We want to impress upon people that there is a very reliable link between the animal and human data that is rapidly emerging,” said panel moderator Dr. Vesna Jevtovic-Todorovic, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., Professor of Anesthesiology and Neuroscience at the University of Virginia Health System and SmartTots Scientific Advisory Board member.
Studies that have been conducted on animal primates have raised valid questions about the safety and implications of anesthesia on the developing brain. Merle Paule, Ph.D., Director of Division of Neurotoxicology at the National Center for Toxicological Research and SmartTots Scientific Advisory Board member, said that these findings clearly show the effect of anesthesia on brain development and the negative impact it can have on brain functioning.
“Very clearly, the studies done by the folks at the National Center for Toxicological Research are extremely important. They can’t be overrated because they show in a species similar to humans that there is an effect not only on the pathology in the brain, but also in behavior. And that effect is a lasting effect,” said Randall Flick, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic, and the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia representative on the SmartTots Affiliate Advisory Council. The study, conducted on children ages four years and younger, examined the effects of anesthesia exposure and determined that those who received anesthesia for at least two hours, on two separate occasions, were at a higher risk for cognitive impairment.
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