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Anesthesia in Early Childhood Carries Risks

8/20/2012 For Release: August 20, 2012

​​​​​​​A study of 2,608 children in Australia, 321 of whom were exposed to anesthesia before the age of 3 and 2,287 who were unexposed before age 3 was conducted to determine the association between exposure to anesthesia in children and outcomes in language, cognitive function, motor skills and behavior at age 10. The study, “Long-term Differences in Language and Cognitive Function After Childhood Exposure to Anesthesia,” in the September 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online August 20) found that children exposed to anesthesia before age 3 have an increased risk for long-term deficits in receptive and expressive language and abstract reasoning at age 10. Even a single exposure was associated with increased risk. The authors noted that this study differs from others studies through the use of directly administered neuropsychological assessments. Past studies have relied on academic scores, standardized test results, medical records, and parent and teacher surveys. The assessments used in this study, however, may be more sensitive than those used in prior studies and as a result, able to detect subtle differences in specific neuropsychological domains.


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