Background: Multiple human studies have shown no significant long-term results of anesthesia exposure during early childhood compared to the general population; however, reports on short-term neurodevelopmental assessment before and after anesthesia exposure are limited. This study aimed to evaluate the short-term characteristics of neurocognitive function post-anesthesia in noncardiac surgery compared with baseline.

Methods: This prospective case-control pilot study recruited healthy participants in the control group and hospitalized children in the anesthesia group. Children aged 1-36 months without previous anesthesia were included. Neurocognitive function was assessed at baseline and seven days after anesthesia administration using a cognitive scale of the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, third edition. The control group received only a baseline assessment. The cognitive composite score had a mean of 100 and a standard deviation (SD) of 15, with a difference of score >1/3 SD (5 points) defined as clinically significant.

Results: Twenty and 39 participants in the control and anesthesia groups, respectively, were included in the final analysis. The baseline cognitive scale score of the anesthesia group was statistically and clinically lower than that of the control group. The mean (SD) cognitive composite scores in the control and anesthesia group were 111.50 (11.71) and 97.13 (9.88), P<0.001. The mean difference [95% confidence interval (CI)] was -14.37 (-8.28 to -20.47). In the anesthesia group, the post-anesthesia cognitive composite score was statistically higher than that at baseline, but without clinical significance. The mean (SD) of baseline and post-anesthesia cognitive composite scores were 97.05 (9.85) and 101.28 (10.87), P=0.039, respectively. The mean difference (95% CI) was 4.23 (0.23-8.23). However, 7 (17.9%) participants had decreased cognitive composite scores after anesthesia exposure.

Conclusions: Children in the anesthesia group had lower baseline cognitive composite scores than those in the control group. The post-anesthesia cognitive score did not decrease compared with the baseline assessment. Anesthetic exposure resulted in a decline in the cognitive composite score in 17.9% of the participants.

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Waitayawinyu et al.
Translational Pediatrics July 2023