Background: General anesthesia (GA) is known to worsen neural outcomes in animals, but human research assessing early-life GA exposure and neurodevelopment show inconsistent findings. We investigated the effects of a single GA exposure for minor surgery on the neurodevelopment of healthy children at multiple time-points, using clinical assessments along with behavioral and neurophysiological measures rarely used in human research.
Methods: GA-exposed children were a prospective cohort of 250 full-term, healthy infants who underwent GA for minor surgery before 15 months. Nonexposed children were from a separate cohort of similar age, sex, ethnicity, and maternal education. In both cohorts, clinical measures (Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development-III [BSID-III] and Child Behavior Checklist [CBCL1½-5]) were assessed at 24 months, and experimental tests (memory and attentional) and neurophysiology (event-related potentials) at 6 and 18 months.
Results: At 24 months, there were no differences between GA-exposed and nonexposed children in the cognitive, language, motor, and socioemotional domains of the BSDI-III; however, GA-exposed children had poorer parental-reported scores in BSID-III general adaptability (94.2 vs. 99.0 [mean difference, 4.77; 97.3% confidence interval, -9.29, -0.24]; P=0.020) and poorer internalizing behavior scores on CBCL1½-5 (52.8 vs. 49.4 [mean difference, 3.35; 97.3% confidence interval, 0.15-6.55]; P=0.021). For experimental measures, GA-exposed children showed differences in 4 tests at 6 and 18 months.
Conclusions: GA-exposed children did not differ from unexposed children in cognitive, language or motor outcomes at 24 months, but exhibited poorer parent-reported behavior scores. Differences in infant behavior and neurophysiology were detected at 6 and 18 months. Neurophysiological assessments may complement clinically relevant assessments to provide greater insights into neurodevelopment following early GA exposure.
Choon Looi Bong et al.
Journal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology May 2022