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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 2, 2018


Mayo Clinic Study Adds Valuable Knowledge to Body of Research on Pediatric Anesthesia

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Study of children undergoing anesthesia before age 3 supports earlier findings of no significant negative impact on intelligence, but multiple exposures may be associated with behavioral or learning problems; more research needed.


The study goes further than earlier research in finding that very young children who have had even multiple exposures – rather than just a single exposure – to anesthesia exhibited no significant decline in IQ as measured later in life. However, those children who had two or more exposures do show a modest decline in fine motor skills and the ability to rapidly process information when reading. Their parents also reported more learning and behavioral problems than children who did not receive an anesthetic. Children who had had only one exposure showed some problems with skills that help with memory, impulse control, planning and flexibility, according to their parents’ assessment, but not with other behaviors.

The Mayo study team conducted comprehensive neuropsychological assessments of children several years after their exposure to anesthesia before 3 years of age. The Mayo Clinic researchers enrolled nearly one thousand children born between 1994 and 2007 in Olmsted County, Minnesota, home of the clinic’s Rochester campus, and determined which children had had one or more exposures to anesthesia and compared them to children who had not had an anesthetic. Each of the 997 children underwent four hours of IQ and brain function tests at ages 8-12 or 15-20. In addition, their parents answered detailed questionnaires about their child’s behavior.  

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