Anaesthesia Lay Summaries


Detection of the effects of anaesthesia on cognitive function in children depends on the tests used

Keywords: anaesthesia, child behaviour disorders, developmental disabilities, age factors, outcome measures

What is already known about this subject:

  • Exposure to anaesthesia during childhood can have long-lasting effects on cognitive function, although not all studies show this.
  • A variety of measures have been used to test the association between anaesthesia and cognitive function, making the results difficult to compare.
  • No study has specifically compared the ability of different types of measurements to assess a single group of children exposed to anaesthesia.

What this Raine study adds:

  • Raine participants who had been exposed to anaesthesia before 3 years of age were assessed at 10 years of age using three different measures of cognitive function. Anaesthesia exposure was associated with worse cognitive function using two of the three measures.
  • These results may help to explain some of the variation in published studies, and highlight the importance of test selection when measuring cognitive function.

Ing, C. H., DiMaggio, C. J., Malacova, E., Whitehouse, A. J., Hegarty, M. K., Feng, T., … Sun, L. S. (2014). Comparative analysis of outcome measures used in examining neurodevelopmental effects of early childhood anesthesia exposure. Anesthesiology, 120(6), 1319-32. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000000248. [publink]

Increased risk of motor problems in children exposed to anesthetic between three and ten years of age

Keywords: anesthesia, brain development, language, cognitive function, motor function

What is already known about this subject:

  • Anesthesia may affect the developing brain.
  • Studies have shown that anesthesia during very early life can have long-term effects on learning, memory, motor skills, attention and behaviour.
  • It is not known if anesthesia later in childhood carries the same risks as anesthesia very early in life.

What this Raine study adds:

  • Neuropsychological testing and assessment of motor skills in Raine participants revealed that those who were exposed to anesthesic between 3 and 10 years of age were more likely to have problems with their motor skills than children who had not undergone anesthesia.
  • Language and cognitive function were not affected.
  • The differing effects of anesthetic on children who are exposed at different ages may represent different periods of vulnerability during brain development.

Ing, C. H., et al. (2014). “Neurodevelopmental Outcomes After Initial Childhood Anesthetic Exposure Between Ages 3 and 10 Years.” Journal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology 26(4): 377-386. [publink]