MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lena S. Sun, MD
E. M. Papper Professor of Pediatric Anesthesiology
Professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics
Executive Vice Chairman, Department of Anesthesiology
Chief, Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, New York 10032
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Sun: The background for the study is as follow: There is robust evidence in both rodent and non-human primate studies that exposure of the developing brain leads to impairment in cognitive function and behavior later in life. The evidence from human studies derives mostly from retrospective studies and the results have been mixed. Some have demonstrated anesthesia in early childhood was associated with impaired neurocognitive function, while others have found no such association. Our study is the first to specifically designed to address the question of effects of general anesthesia exposure on cognitive function, comparing exposure with no exposure.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Dr. Sun: In healthy young children under age 3 years, a single general anesthetic exposure was not associated with any risk for cognitive neurodevelopment.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Dr. Sun: If the child is healthy and is having a relatively short general anesthetics for one time, it is not going to have any long term effects on the child’s brain development.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Sun: Our study included very few girls, and only examined a single episode of exposure, and the duration of anesthesia exposure was relatively short (average duration was 84 minutes, and median duration was 80 minutes). Future research should study anesthesia exposure effects in girls, with exposure of longer duration and repeated episodes.
We also need to examine the neurodevelopmental risk of anesthesia exposure in vulnerable groups children with co-existing medical conditions. Specifically, there are groups of children who are known to have risk for adverse neurodevelopment, for example former premature infants, children with congenital heart diseases, etc. We need to study the relative contribution of the effects of anesthesia exposure in their neurodevelopment.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Sun: It is reassuring to know that in healthy children, a single episode of anesthesia exposure is safe. But, there are many unanswered questions regarding the use of anesthesia in children with regard to the risk related to neurodevelopment. It is important that we continue to do research in this area.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Sun LS, Li G, Miller TK, et al. Association Between a Single General Anesthesia Exposure Before Age 36 Months and Neurocognitive Outcomes in Later Childhood. JAMA. 2016;315(21):2312-2320. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.6967.
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