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General anesthesia is unlikely to have lasting effects on the developing brains of young children

A single hour of general anaesthesia in early infancy—longer than is necessary to perform the most common types of minor surgeries in childhood—does not result in measurable neurodevelopmental or behavioural problems up to the age of 5 years, according to the first randomised trial of its kind involving 722 infants in seven countries, published in the Lancet.

Comment from Associate Professor Nicola Disma

Chair of the Paediatric Scientific Sub-Committee at the European Society of Anaesthesiology

Director of Clinical Research, Department of Anaesthesia, Istituto G. Gaslini, Genova, Italy

“This study, one of the largest ever completed on anaesthesia in children, has provided conclusive results that are reassuring for both patients and doctors: a single exposure to general anaesthesia of about one hour in early infancy does not cause a clinically significant adverse neurodevelopmental outcome at 5 years of age. These results have a positive impact on millions of young patients undergoing anaesthesia every year. In fact, one hour of anaesthesia is even longer than is necessary to perform the most common types of surgeries in childhood.”

The consortium that has produced this work represents an extraordinary example of international collaboration, and in future, with further trials, may be able to address remaining unresolved questions on the effects of prolonged anaesthesia in the developing brain.

You can read the full study here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32485-1/fulltext

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