Review otolaryngology literature for awareness of neurotoxicity from general anesthesia in children. Recently, there has been increasing focus in anesthesia literature on the long-term effects of general anesthesia on neurodevelopment. Multiple animal models have demonstrated evidence of neurotoxicity from both inhalational and intravenous anesthetics. Cohort studies also have revealed modestly increased risk of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in children exposed to a single episode of general anesthesia prior to 3 to 4 years of age, with stronger evidence for multiple exposures in this age range. Otolaryngologists may subject children to general anesthesia via procedures or tests, including computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and auditory brainstem response.


PubMed, Embase, Scopus, and Web of Science Review.


A scoping review using the above databases was performed limited to January 2005 through December 2015. Articles were screened and reviewed based on predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria.


Initial search generated 3,909 articles. After 72 full text articles were reviewed, only seven articles mentioned neurotoxicity as a risk of general anesthesia in pediatric patients.


Despite the high volume of pediatric otolaryngologic procedures performed annually, there remains limited awareness in our literature discussing neurotoxicity as an outcome. Prospective data from anesthesia literature is still pending; therefore, specific recommendations cannot be made at this time. Otolaryngologists should be aware of the concerns and work toward defining elective procedures, combining surgical procedures with other procedures or imaging, and reassessing the timing and frequency of various interventions under general anesthesia in young children.