Anaesthesia, May 14, 2014.
Sinner B, Becke K, Engelhard K.
Various experimental studies in animals have shown that general anaesthetics are potentially toxic to the developing brain. By inducing apoptosis or interfering with neurogenesis, anaesthetic exposure during a critical period of neuronal development can have significant impact on neurocognitive function later in life. It remains controversial whether these experimental results can be transferred to human beings and this is under intensive scientific evaluation. To gain more insight into possible neurotoxic effects on the human brain of infants and small children, a number of retrospective studies have been performed. At present, there is no clear evidence that exposure to anaesthesia up to the age of 3-4 years is associated with neurocognitive or behavioural deficits. Currently, the PANDA, MASK and GAS studies are underway to explore this relationship. Anaesthesia is not an end in itself, but necessary to facilitate surgical procedures. There is evidence that maintaining physiological conditions is important for the overall outcome following anaesthesia and surgery. Until proven otherwise, it can be recommended to keep anaesthesia and surgery as short as possible, to use short-acting drugs and/or a combination of general anaesthesia and multimodal pain therapy including systemic analgesics, and local or regional anaesthesia, to reduce the overall drug dosage.
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