In the past, experts believed general anesthesia was the best and safest form of anesthesia for infants. New findings have shown that general anesthesia,when given to a baby during the first year of life, could increase their risk for developing learning issues. One study found the development of ADHD was linked to infants when they were given general anesthesia in their first year of life.
Studies were recently published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal, focusing on infants in their first year of life, and the effects of anesthesiaThe study found that infants who were in their first year of life, and require many exposures to medical anesthesia, had an increased risk for developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Pediatric anesthesiologist, David O. Warner, M.D, explains that the longer a child is unconscious, the greater their risk for ADHD, even if there’s only small amounts of exposures to anesthesia, this too could also heighten the risk.
Regional anesthesia is performed when a person is conscious and only numbs the areas, such as the lower part of the body, or whichever part would feel the most pain. The recent findings have shown regional anesthesia to yield better outcomes from various types of surgery involving infants.
Research from the American Society of Anesthesiologists was released, including two separate studies on infants. These studies measured the effectiveness of regional and general anesthesia had on infant’s apnea. In the first study, researchers from the Royal Children’s Hospital compared rates of apnea in 722 infants. They found that regional anesthesia, lessened an infants chance of experiencing apnea in the first half hour after surgery. The second study examined the different effects general and regional anesthesia had on infants by measuring their rate of apnea after their most recent surgical procedure, hernia repair surgery.
The research in which was conducted has been part of an ongoing study, helping to find the long-term effects anesthesia has on neurodevelopment outcomes. “One of the most common types of procedures infants have is hernia repair, which has provided the strongest evidence on how babies should have anesthesia to date. We have also found that spinal anesthesia is safer than general anesthesia,” explains Andrew Davidson, M.D., study author and associate professor, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.