Background: Concern for a role of anesthesia in neurotoxicity in children originated from neonatal rodent and nonhuman primate (NHP) models, yet prospective clinical studies have largely not supported this concern. The goal of this study was to conduct an objective assessment of published NHP study rigor in design, execution, and reporting.

Methods: A MEDLINE search from 2005 to December 2021 was performed. Inclusion criteria included full-length original studies published in English under peer-reviewed journals. We documented experimental parameters on anesthetic dosing, monitoring, vitals, and experimental outcomes.

Results: Twenty-three manuscripts were included. Critical issues identified in study design included: lack of blinding in data acquisition (57%) and analysis (100%), supratherapeutic (4-12 fold) maintenance dosing in 22% of studies, lack of sample size justification (91%) resulting in a mean (SD) sample size of 6 (3) animals per group. Critical items identified in the conduct and reporting of studies included: documentation of anesthesia provider (0%), electrocardiogram monitoring (35%), arterial monitoring (4%), spontaneous ventilation employed (35%), failed intubations resulting in comingling ventilated and unventilated animals in data analysis, inaccurate reporting of failed intubation, and only 50% reporting on survival. Inconsistencies were noted in drug-related induction of neuroapoptosis and region of occurrence. Further, 67%-100% of behavior outcomes were not significantly different from controls.

Conclusions: Important deficits in study design, execution, and reporting were identified in neonatal NHP studies. These results raise concern for the validity and reliability of these studies and may explain in part the divergence from results obtained in human neonates.

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Gao, Wahl, & Floyd.
Paediatric Anaesthesia January 2022