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Mayo Researchers Find Anesthesia Not Harmful for Babies During Birth Process
Date:7/27/2009

later identification of learning disabilities.

Prolonged exposure to anesthetics has been shown to cause brain abnormalities in young animals, which was the impetus behind these two studies. Scientists think that the brains of young animals and humans are more vulnerable to a variety of problems because they are undergoing rapid growth. The brain is forming vital connections between cells during this time.

Not only did the researchers find that the use of anesthesia during delivery was not harmful to the baby, they found that babies delivered by Cesarean using an epidural anesthetic (which numbs only the lower region of the body and does not involve the mother going to sleep) had a substantially reduced risk for learning disabilities later in life. "The risk was reduced by about 40 percent compared to children delivered vaginally and those delivered via Cesarean section but with general anesthesia," says Dr. Sprung.

Study co-author and Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist Randall Flick, M.D., cautions that because this study is preliminary, changes to medical practice should not be considered at this point. "What we've found is an association between two things," says Dr. Flick. "One is the way a child was delivered, either vaginally or under regional or general anesthesia. The other is a difference in the incidence of learning disabilities as the child attended school. It's important to recognize there may be many other factors that impact learning disabilities."

The team is investigating whether use of an epidural on a mother during natural labor has similar effects on the incidence of learning disabilities in children as a C-section with an epidural.

Dr. Flick says the research team also is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a related study that looks more closely at young ch
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SOURCE Mayo Clinic
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