Complications Associated with General Anaesthesia in Kids

According to new study conducted by investigators from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, general anaesthesia given to kids below the age of 4 years might be related with decreased gray matter density in specific brain locations, which results in reduced IQ and poorer language development.

Main study author Dr. Andreas Loepke, and colleagues presented their results in the journal Pediatrics.

In earlier research, Dr. Loepke and colleagues identified that general anaesthesia lead to nerve cell damage and cognitive problems in mice and rats, which started worry about how surgical anaesthesia may effect the human brain in early life – a essential neuro-developmental time.

As a result, the team started to evaluate how general anaesthesia given to kids going through surgery prior to the age of 4 years may affect brain framework, IQ and language development.

According to lead author

“The end goal of our laboratory and clinical research is to enhance safety and outcomes in young kids who have no option but to go through surgery with anaesthesia to treat their severe health issues.”

“We also have to superior understand to what level anesthetics and other aspects play a role to learning irregularities in kids before making drastic changes to our present practice,” he adds, “which by all measures has turn out to be very safe.”

Anaesthesia prior to age 4 connected to decrease gray matter density in cerebellum, occipital cortex

The investigators registered 53 individuals aged 5-18 years who had gone through surgery involving general anaesthesia prior to the age of 4, along with 53 age-matched individuals who had not had surgery.

None of the kids had a history of neurologic or psychological health issues, with respect to the team, and no one had experienced traumatic brain injuries.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to evaluate the children’s brain structures, and the kids were also needed to finish IQ and language development assessments, which include the Oral and Written Language Scales and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale.

While all kid’s exam scores were within the normal range in evaluation with the general population, the team identified that those who went through surgery had much reduced IQ and language development scores than those who had not had surgery.

What is more, the researchers revealed that the reduced test scores among the kids who went through surgery were mediated by decreased gray matter density in the occipital cortex and cerebellum of the brain.

These results stayed after accounting for possible confounding factors, which includes children’s age, sex, socioeconomic position, left or right handedness, the kind of surgery conducted and the length of exposure to anesthetics.

Lower IQ scores may associate to lifetime earnings loss of $560 billion

With respect to the investigators, the reduced IQ scores identified among kids who obtained general anaesthesia for surgery is the equal to a potential loss of about a 5-6 IQ points.

They note that this finding could have significant effects for society, directing to one earlier study that approximated every 1-point IQ loss may decrease a person’s lifetime income potential by $18,000.

The investigators evaluate that among the 6 million kids who go through surgery in US every year, a 5-6-point loss in IQ could equal to a possible lifetime income loss of $540 billion.

The team notices that their results highlight the significance of identifing superior ways to administer anaesthesia to young kids going through surgery – something they are presently examining in laboratory studies.

However, they say that present anaesthesia methods are very safe and that the advantages of surgery for young kids far over-shadow the risks linked with anaesthetic exposure.

“It is essential to observe that no surgeries are truly elective in young kids,” Dr. Loepke notes. “Many surgical methods early in life treat life-threatening situations, prevent critical health issues, or enhance quality of life. These can’t be simply delayed or avoided.”