Study’s Findings About Anesthesia and Young Children Encouraging to Parents

Confirms Need for Additional Research to Fully Evaluate Changes in Children Exposed to Anesthesia

Chicago — (April 27, 2011) 

Young children exposed to a brief, single anesthetic did not show any evidence of adverse long-term effects on the brain, according to a new Danish study published in the May issue of Anesthesiology. While past studies in young animals have shown anesthetics cause potential developmental and behavioral changes, this particular study found no evidence of a similar detrimental effect in children.

The applicability of animal data to humans undergoing anesthesia early in life remains uncertain, partly due to the difficulty in differentiating anesthetic exposure and pathology in animals to clinically meaningful effects in patients. However, the new study is one of a few to analyze young children undergoing the same surgery and adjust for confounding factors among those patients.

“Fortunately, our study did not find a relation between neuro-degeneration and anesthesia in young children. The findings should help reassure parents that if their child needs to undergo surgery, a minimal amount of anesthesia does not appear to influence subsequent education achievements later in life,” said Tom G. Hansen, M.D., Ph.D. “However, we cannot fully conclude that anesthetics are safe in all cases. More human data need to be collected to exclude effects in more particular domains of neurobehavioral outcome.”

About the Study
Investigators compared the academic performance of all Danish children born between 1986-1990 who underwent inguinal hernia repair prior to one year of age (2,689 individuals) to a randomly selected sample of 5 percent of the remaining Danish children of the same age (14,575 individuals). Primary analysis compared the average test scores of participants in adolescence during the ninth grade, adjusting for gender, birth weight, and parents’ age and education, as well as the presence of other congenital malformations.

The study found there was no statistically significant difference in academic performance between the hernia group and the general population sample. Results showed the majority of children who underwent hernia repair in infancy did not show any signs of neurological impairment in adolescence.

“Dr. Hansen’s study is very timely with the recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Anesthetic and Life Support Drugs Advisory Committee meeting,” said Anesthesiology Editor-in-Chief James C. Eisenach, M.D. “The meeting determined that anesthesiologists must continue to actively pursue investigation in this area of research to fully evaluate potential developmental and behavioral changes in children exposed to anesthesia.”

To learn more about pediatric anesthesia, visit For additional information on the study, visit the Anesthesiology website at


Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Join the ANESTHESIOLOGYTM 2014 social conversation today. Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter and use the hashtag #ANES2014.



American Society of Anesthesiologists