ASA: Pediatric Anesthesia Studies Show Mixed Results

One links anesthesia with developmental disorders; another discounts effects of awareness
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Young children who undergo general anesthesia may have an increased risk of developmental and behavioral disorders compared to other children. But older children who undergo general anesthesia and experience awareness may not have an increased risk of psychological distress compared with children who do not experience awareness, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, held Oct. 18 to 22 in Orlando, Fla.

In one study, Charles J. DiMaggio, Ph.D., of Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues compared 625 children under age 3 who underwent general anesthesia and 5,000 matched controls. Their adjusted analysis showed that children exposed to anesthesia were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with developmental and behavioral disorders (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.9).

In a second study, Shobha Malviya, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues studied 1,788 children aged 5 to 15 who underwent general anesthesia. Although 1.6 percent of the children experienced probable or possible anesthesia awareness, none of them developed psychological distress and fewer of them stated they would feel worse if they had to have surgery again than those who didn't experience awareness (10 percent versus 15 percent).

"It is important to emphasize that given the limitations and preliminary nature of the study, these results should be interpreted with caution; parents should not keep their children from having necessary surgical procedures," said Lena S. Sun, M.D., a co-author of the first study, in a statement.

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