A belief that early childhood surgical procedures requiring general anaesthesia may lead to adverse childhood development outcomes was nullified based on a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
The study reported that children who had surgical procedures that require general anaesthesia before primary school entry were not found to be at increased risk of adverse child development outcomes compared with their biological siblings who did not have surgery.
Previous preclinical evidence has suggested anaesthetic drugs may cause injury to the developing brain.
James Leary and associates conducted a retrospective sibling-matched cohort study to examine the association between surgical procedures that require general anaesthesia before primary school entry and child development in biological siblings.
The study included sibling pairs aged 5 to 6 years with the same birth mother who had Early Development Instrument (EDI) data completed. All eligible children from 2004 through 2012 were included. Data were analyzed from December 13, 2017, through July 27, 2018.
The EDI is a population-based measure of child development that assesses children’s readiness to learn in 5 major domains (physical health and well-being, social knowledge and competence, emotional health and maturity, language and cognitive development, and communication skills and general knowledge).
Of the 187 226 eligible children for whom the EDI was completed, a total of 10 897 sibling pairs were subsequently identified, including 2346 with only 1 child exposed to surgery.
The authors found no significant differences between exposed and unexposed children in early developmental vulnerability for each of the 5 major EDI domains
“These findings further support that anaesthesia exposure in early childhood is not associated with detectable adverse child development outcomes,” write the authors.
The authors concluded that after mitigating for biological vulnerability and environmental factors, exposure to surgical procedures that require general anaesthesia in early childhood was not associated with increased risks of adverse child development outcomes.
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