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4 October 2011
Learning disabilities associated with general anesthesia

Mayo clinic researchers have found a link among children requiring general anesthesia before age two and learning disabilities later in childhood. The study, appearing in Pediatrics, was conducted with existing data of 5,357 children born between 1976 and 1982 in a single school district in Rochester.

"After removing factors related to existing health issues, we found that children exposed more than once to anesthesia and surgery prior to age 2 were approximately three times as likely to develop problems related to speech and language when compared to children who never underwent surgeries at that young age," says Mayo's David Warner, a co-author of the study.

Among the children who had multiple surgeries before age two, 37 percent developed a learning disability later in life. Of those with just one surgery, 24 percent developed a learning disability, which compares to 21 percent for children who developed learning disabilities but never had surgery or anesthesia before age 2.

"Our advice to parents considering surgery for a child under age 2 is to speak with your child's physician," says Randall Flick, lead author of the study. "In general, this study should not alter decision-making related to surgery in young children. We do not yet have sufficient information to prompt a change in practice and want to avoid problems that may occur as a result of delaying needed procedures. For example, delaying ear surgery for children with repeated ear infections might cause hearing problems that could create learning difficulties later in school."

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Source: Mayo Clinic

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