Study links anesthesia in infancy to learning disabilities later in life

By Molly Reuter - bio | email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - For the first time, a study is conducted on humans and the affects of anesthesia, especially when it comes to infants.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota just released a study that shows a link between anesthesia in infancy, and learning disabilities later in life.  Researches took a group of more than 5,000 children and tracked the number of operations each infant received before the age of four.  Of those 5,000, 600 needed at least one surgery and just more than 100 infants needed more.

Researches found infants who had just one exposure to anesthesia showed no greater risk of learning problems later in life, but those who had two, or more exposures, had a 60% increased chance of developing a learning disability.  The study also shows three, or more exposures by age three doubled a child's risk.

Doctors say the study does raise some important questions, but it's too early to change current anesthesia practices.

"Children and adults are tolerating anesthesia very well, and we are doing things we never used to do in both children and adults," said Trinity Mother Frances Health System Chief of Anesthesiology, Dr. Gifford Eckhout.  "Under anesthesia they can handle the surgery better, can better recover and have better pain control.  Obviously, there are some surgery's you couldn't do without anesthesia, and I think the reality is a study like this should deter parents from doing the right thing for their children."  Dr. Eckhout went on to say he hopes more research is done in the future.