Study Suggests Anesthesia can Cause Brain Injuries in Children
A recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics suggests negative brain structure changes occur in children who undergo procedures involving the use of anesthesia. According to the study, anesthetics induce widespread brain cell death, permanent neurological damage and cognitive impairment in baby animals. Researchers associated with the study are concerned about whether anesthesia can cause brain injuries among children, but are lacking the means to test their hypothesis.
Some anesthesiologists and researchers are conflicted as to whether anesthesia has measurable negative effects on the brains of children. There is no way to measure such a thing, as it would be unethical to put children under anesthesia for research purposes.
According to a pediatric anesthesiologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and co-author of the Pediatrics study, the effects on the brain are likely small if there are any. The study co-author argued that even though no evidence exists yet, health care professionals working in pediatrics should always consider safer alternatives to anesthesia.
Should Parents Be Concerned?
A similar study took place in 2000 at the University of Virginia and Washington University in St. Louis. Researchers exposed young rats to anesthesia, which suffered brain cell death in addition to memory and cognitive problems. However, the rats were exposed to anesthesia for six hours, which is a very long time for children.
Most children who do require anesthesia are only put under for an average of 37 minutes, far less than 6 hours. The dosages used on the young rats were far more than what would be allowed on children. As to whether procedures involving anesthesia can affect children, only time and further research will tell.
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