Objective: To investigate the association between exposure to surgery under general anesthesia and brain abnormalities and neurodevelopmental outcomes in very preterm infants.

Study design: This prospective observational study includes 392 infants born at or below 32 weeks’ gestational age. Participants completed brain MRI at term-equivalent age and Bayley-III assessment at 2 years corrected age. We evaluated the independent effects of surgery on brain MRI abnormalities and neurodevelopmental outcomes after propensity score matching.

Results: All infants completed brain MRI, and 341 (87%) completed neurodevelopmental testing. Forty-five received surgery. Surgery was associated with worse MRI abnormalities (p < 0.0001) but with none of the developmental outcomes after propensity score matching. The global brain abnormality score was associated with the Bayley Cognitive (p = 0.005) and Motor (p = 0.028) composite scores.

Conclusions: Very preterm infants exposed to surgery under general anesthesia were at higher risk of brain abnormalities on MRI at term.

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Kojima et al.
Journal of perinatology: official journal of the California Perinatal Association March 2023