Infants given anaesthesia may face learning difficulties

Researchers found that children exposed to anaesthesia before the age of three were likely to develop language impairment.

Written by Agencies | Melbourne | Published: August 29, 2012 6:33 pm

Children who are given anaesthetic before the age of three are at a higher risk of developing learning difficulties,according to a new study.

Researchers led by the University of Western Australia found that children exposed to anaesthesia before the age of three were twice as likely to develop language impairment and three times more likely to have problems with abstract reasoning in childhood.

The study analysed long-term effects of anaesthesia on young children – using the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study,which is studying 2868 children born in Western Australia between 1989 and 1992.

“We looked at 321 children from the Raine study who were exposed to anaesthesia for surgery and diagnostic testing before the age of three and found they were about twice as likely to develop a significant language impairment and three times more likely to have problems with abstract reasoning by the age of 10,when compared to children who were not exposed to anaesthesia and surgery,” Professor Regli-von

Ungern-Sternberg from the university said.

“But the study does not allow us to determine if the cause of these increased impairments were due to anaesthesia,surgery or the medical condition that required the intervention,” she added.

“Parents should consult their surgeon to see if the procedure is necessary. Any concerns regarding anaesthesia and potential anaesthetic implications for their child should be discussed with their anaesthetist before surgery,” she said in a statement.

The study was published in the US journal Pediatrics.

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