The potential risk to the brains of young children in relation to exposure to anesthesia remains undetermined and is a subject of contention. The answer may depend on how the question is posed—that is, the outcome measures used to define neurotoxicity. The issue is also important in that it determines how precious research dollars will be spent.

In a roundtable discussion, four pediatric anesthesiologists—Caleb Ing, MD, assistant professor of anesthesiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City; Mary Ellen McCann, MD, MPH, senior associate in perioperative anesthesia at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard University; Randall Flick, MD, of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who is president of the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia (SPA); and Per-Arne Lönnqvist, MD, professor of pediatric anesthesia and intensive care at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm—debated what conclusions can be drawn from conflicting neurotoxicity data from studies conducted in the United States and Europe.

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