Does anesthesia cause developmental problems?

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Questions about anesthesia and behavioral problemsParents may be careful to protect their children from a number of threats to their health, including toxic chemicals and potentially harmful medications.

Now, new research raises questions about the effect of general anesthesia on a child’s developing brain.

Findings reported at the American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting reveal that children who were exposed to anesthesia could double their risk of being diagnosed with a behavior or developmental disorder.

Scientists analyzed data from 625 children who had been given anesthesia for a hernia operation and compared it with a sample of 5,000 kids who had not had anesthesia. All participants were covered by the New York State Medicaid program.

They found that 4.8 of the children exposed to anesthesia had later been diagnosed with a developmental or behavioral disorder, compared with 1.5 percent of the control group.

Researcher Dr. Lena Sun told Reuters Health that although the results are provocative, more investigation needs to be done.

"This study basically suggests that we really need to do a more rigorous study to look at this question," she said.

Around 2 million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the behavioral problem ADHD, according to the National Institute of Medical Health.
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