Baby and general anaesthesia risk studied
The developing brains of infants, given just under an hour of general anaesthesia during surgery, did not appear to be harmed by the time they turned two, according to an interim study.
But the jury is still out, given that some aspects of neurodevelopment cannot be assessed at that age and the growing evidence that anaesthesia has negative effects on the brains of young lab rats and monkeys.
The study also found spinal anaesthesia had safer short term outcomes – such as fewer breathing complications in recovery – than general anaesthesia, but that at two years there was no difference.
Professor Andrew Davidson spoke to journalists before reporting the findings of the GAS study to a session of the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists in Auckland.
Giving young children general anaesthesia “causes enormous concerns in the anaesthesia community”, said Prof Davidson, adding that many colleagues were relieved at the interim findings.
“For about 10 years, buckets and buckets of evidence has shown general anaesthesia interferes in the way the brain develops in everything from a worm to a monkey.”
But evidence was needed on the risks to children, particularly given that the human brain is much more complex.
The GAS study, coordinated at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, involved globally 700 children randomised to receive either general or spinal anaesthesia for hernia repair surgeries.
At age two, their cognition, language and motor skills were measured and “not a skerrick of difference” was found between the two groups, he said.
Research had shown spinal anaesthesia does not cause toxicity harm in animals.
Prof Davidson said some anaesthetists were not comfortable or confident with doing spinals which involved “scrunching” the baby up and injecting a local anaesthetic into the spine to numb from the waist-down.
The next stage of the research is to evaluate the children when they are five.
Another study will involve about 500 children comparing a combination-style anaesthesia and general anaesthesia in surgery lasting two-three hours.
Source: MSN news Australia