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General Anesthesia Tied to Developmental Woes in Kids
Date:10/21/2008

But findings are preliminary, and no reason to keep children from needed surgery, experts say,,,,

TUESDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Youngsters under the age of 3 who had hernia surgery showed almost twice the risk of behavioral or developmental problems later compared to kids who hadn't had surgery, a new study finds.

Researchers suspect that exposure to general anesthesia during these operations might have played a role in the jump in risk, according to lead author Charles DiMaggio, an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons' Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

"There really is no hard evidence that there is any causal association between anesthesia and developmental outcomes in children, though research in rat models indicates that there may be some association between the types of anesthesia and neuronal [brain cell] level changes," said DiMaggio. "The early concern is, could these data be extrapolated to humans?"

DiMaggio was quick to point out that even though the current study found an association between anesthesia use and neurodevelopmental problems, these are just preliminary findings. "The jury is still out; actually, the jury hasn't even retired to deliberate," he said.

DiMaggio was to present the findings Tuesday at the American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

The study included 625 children under the age of 3 who had surgery to repair a groin hernia. The operations were performed with the children under general anesthesia.

The researchers compared this group of children to 5,000 randomly selected, age-matched children. All of the study participants were covered by the New York State Medicaid program.

Thirty children (4.8 percent) of the children exposed to anesthesia and 75 (1.5 percent) of the control group kids were eventually diagnosed with a developm
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