Sevoflurane anesthesia is widely used in pediatric patients. In this study, we investigated whether early multiple exposures to sevoflurane induced cognitive dysfunction by altering the hippocampal expression of ApoE later in development.


Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to 2.6% sevoflurane at postnatal day 7 (P7), P14, and P21 for 2 h. The ability of learning and memory was assessed using the Morris water maze at P37 and P97. The hippocampal volume was measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at P37 and P97. The hippocampal expression of ApoE was assessed by immunohistochemical analyses and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).


Behavioral testing revealed that the ability of learning and memory in the sevoflurane-exposed rats was decreased compared with the control animals; however, there was no significant difference (P > 0.05). The MRI results showed a significant decrease in the left hippocampal volume, left maximum hippocampal length, and right maximum hippocampal length in the sevoflurane young group compared with the control young group (P < 0.05). The brain volume, left maximum hippocampal length, right hippocampal volume, and maximum brain length were significantly lower in the sevoflurane adult group than in the control adult group (P < 0.05). In young animals, the ApoE expression in the hippocampal CA1 and CA3 regions and the ApoE mRNA level were significantly higher compared with the control group (P < 0.05), but not in the dentate gyrus region (P > 0.05). Among the adult animals, there was no significant difference between the groups in any parameter tested (P > 0.05).


Multiple exposures to sevoflurane during the neonatal period decreased the volume of the hippocampus and increased the hippocampal expression of ApoE. The differential expression level of ApoE in different hippocampal subdivisions suggested that the expression of ApoE was regionally specific and reversible.

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