New anesthesia risks
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Kids who must undergo general anesthesia for multiple surgeries before age 2 may be destined to suffer learning disabilities when they get to school.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic studied a group of about a thousand adults born in the late 70s or early 80s.
Although some surgical techniques have changed since then, experts say the drugs used today for anesthesia are similar.
Learning disabilities were about twice as likely in people who'd had at least two surgeries in which general anesthesia was used before age 2.
"Speech and language appears to be much more affected than behavior," says Dr. Randall Flick.
Researchers say their study results are too preliminary for parents to alter the course of necessary treatment for sick children.
"A single exposure to anesthesia has not been show clearly to have any detrimental effects in children," Dr. Flick explains.
Until more studies can be done experts say the benefits of surgery often outweigh any potential link between anesthesia and learning problems.
Time under anesthesia also seemed to make a difference.
The longer the surgeries lasted, the more likely learning difficulties occurred.