Multiple general anesthesia exposure does not compromise brain function in young children, study finds

A University of Queensland-led study has found multiple doses of anesthetics do not compromise brain function in young children.

Professor Claire Wainwright from UQ's Child Health Research Centre said the result should reassure medical practitioners and parents with children needing repeated anesthetics.

"Previous studies using young animals showed potential learning and behavior changes and some studies that looked at groups of children raised concerns about brain changes," Professor Wainwright said.

"But animal studies don't always show how humans would react and the children with poorer outcomes may have them because of reasons linked to the disease or procedure that required the anesthetic."

The new study was part of a trial in Australia and New Zealand involving children aged under 5 years with cystic fibrosis.

Professor Andrew Davidson from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute said the trial involved mucus collection from two groups of children providing researchers with the opportunity to study the impact of repeated anesthetic doses.

Fluid was collected from the lungs of one group under aesthetic while for the other group, throat swabs were used under no anesthetic.

Our study showed the different techniques used for mucus extraction did not have any impact on the cystic fibrosis outcomes.

When we examined whether the anesthetics had any impact on cognitive or behavioral impacts, we found it did not.

Multiple general anesthesia exposure in those young children did not cause functional impairment in attention, IQ, executive function or brain structure in comparison to the group that had fewer anesthetics."

Professor Andrew Davidson, Murdoch Children's Research Institute 

The research was funded by National Health and Medical Research Council Australia, Queensland Government Health Service and Clinical Innovation Fellowship, and the Children's Hospital Foundation Queensland.

The research paper was published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Journal reference:

Wainwright, C. E., et al. (2024) Long-term outcomes of early exposure to repeated general anaesthesia in children with cystic fibrosis (CF-GAIN): a multicentre, open-label, randomised controlled phase 4 trial. Lancet Respiratory Medicine.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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