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Early Exposure to Anesthesia Linked to Language and Reasoning Deficits in Children

Research conducted over the last decade has shown that immature animals suffer from apoptotic neurodegeneration and long-term cognitive deficiencies when exposed to anesthesia. A new study published in Pediatrics looked to see whether there was an association between anesthesia exposure in children under age 3 and deficits in language and cognitive function at age 10. The study compared 321 children with exposure before the age of 3 to 2,287 children with no exposure, and found that “on average, exposed children had lower scores than their unexposed peers in receptive and expressive language and cognition.” Results showed that exposure was associated with elevated adjusted risk ratio for disability in language reception (1.87) and expression (1.72) and for cognition (1.69). The researchers conclude children exposed to anesthesia before age 3 had an increased long-term risk of clinical deficit in receptive and expressive language, as well as abstract reasoning,” indicating that the “association between anesthesia and neurodevelopmental outcome may be confined to specific domains.” They also noted that “the outcomes of language and reasoning cannot be easily assessed in the animal model, which emphasizes the importance of studies in humans.”

Read it in Pediatrics.