Anesthesia and Childhood: Time for Caution

The New England Journal of MedicineImage via WikipediaAnesthesia and Childhood:  
Time for Caution
Anesthesia is one of the great gifts of modern medicine.  It has given us important medical interventions that would otherwise be too painful to bear.

The power of effective anesthesia to eliminate pain has opened up the door to many interventions, and has led to a veritable explosion of procedures in the developed world.  Of course, not all of these procedures are truly necessary, so when we find out that anesthesia has its dangers, it is prudent to take note.

In April, 2011, the world's leading medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine, published an essay from the FDA outlining some disturbing  concerns about the effect of anesthesia on a child's mind.

The main worry is that a brain exposed to anesthesia in childhood is more likely to develop learning disabilities.  A key point to be made is that this possible adverse impact is, at this time, a cause for concern, but not a proven cause.  Animal studies do prove that with enough exposure to anesthetics, there is a clear connection to increased risk of impaired cognition.  In humans, the two studies cited show an association, not a proven cause, connection between anesthesia prior to age 3 and later learning disorders.

I present this essay to you now, not to say that children under age 3 should not have anesthesia if they need it.

But, given this concern, it does seem very prudent not to proceed with a procedure that is anything less than necessary.

Dr. Arthur Lavin

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