MONDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Children younger than 2 who undergo multiple surgeries requiring general anesthesia may be up to three times more likely than other children to develop speech and language problems as they grow up, a new study suggests.
However, experts cautioned that the finding appears to be restricted to very small children who require more than one surgery.
"A single exposure to anesthesia in surgery has not been shown to be problem, so parents can be reassured that this is not likely to cause any problems," said study author Dr. Randall Flick, an associate professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "For children who have or will have repeated exposures to anesthesia, it's important that those families have a conversation with the surgeon and anesthesiologist to determine the risks and benefits in a broad context."
The new findings are published in the November issue of Pediatrics.
According to the researchers, many animal studies have suggested that certain anesthetics may cause brain changes that might affect learning and behavior, and the U.S .Food and Drug Administration is currently looking into this issue.
"The animal studies show injury to the brain, and deficits in learning and memory in monkeys who are now age 4, and our study in this context becomes concerning," Flick said.
In their new research, Flick's team compared the rate of learning disabilities among 350 children who had undergone surgery with general anesthesia before their second birthday -- including 64 kids who had undergone more than one surgery -- to that of 700 children who did not have any such procedures with anesthesia.
All of the children were born between 1976 and 1983 in one school district in Rochester, Minn. Children who had more than one surgery before age 2 were at heightened risk for speech and langu
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