Neonatal anesthesia, while often essential for surgeries or imaging procedures, is accompanied by significant risks to redox balance in the brain due to the relatively weak antioxidant system in children. Oxidative stress is characterized by concentrations of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are elevated beyond what can be accommodated by the antioxidant defense system. In neonatal anesthesia, this has been proposed to be a contributing factor to some of the negative consequences (e.g., learning deficits and behavioral abnormalities) that are associated with early anesthetic exposure. In order to assess the relationship between neonatal anesthesia and oxidative stress, we first review the mechanisms of action of common anesthetic agents, the key pathways that produce the majority of ROS, and the main antioxidants. We then explore the possible immediate, short-term, and long-term pathways of neonatal-anesthesia-induced oxidative stress. We review a large body of literature describing oxidative stress to be evident during and immediately following neonatal anesthesia. Moreover, our review suggests that the short-term pathway has a temporally limited effect on oxidative stress, while the long-term pathway can manifest years later due to the altered development of neurons and neurovascular interactions.

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Gascoigne, Minhaj, & Aksenov.
Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) April 2022