To examine the contribution of anesthesia exposure during treatment for childhood medulloblastoma to neurocognitive outcomes 3 years after tumor diagnosis.
In this retrospective study, anesthesia data were abstracted from medical records for 111 patients treated with risk-adapted protocol therapy at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Neurocognitive testing data were obtained for 90.9% of patients.
For the 101 patients (62.4% male) who completed testing, mean age at diagnosis was 10.1 years, and 74.3% were staged to have average-risk disease. Anesthesia exposure during treatment ranged from 1 to 52 events (mean = 19.9); mean cumulative duration per patient was 21.1 hours (range 0.7-59.7). Compared with normative expectations (16%), the group had a significantly greater frequency of at-risk scores (<1 SD) on measures of intelligence (28.7%), attention (35.2%), working memory (26.6%), processing speed (46.7%), and reading (25.8%). Including anesthesia exposure duration to linear regression models accounting for age at diagnosis, treatment intensity, and baseline IQ significantly increased the predicted variance for intelligence (r2 = 0.59), attention (r2 = 0.29), working memory (r2 = 0.31), processing speed (r2 = 0.44), and reading (r2 = 0.25; all P values <.001).
In survivors of childhood medulloblastoma, a neurodevelopmentally vulnerable population, greater exposure to anesthesia significantly and independently predicts deficits in neurocognitive and academic functioning. When feasible, anesthesia exposure during treatment should be reduced.