T. G. Hansen and P.-A. Lonnqvist

Very few issues (if any) within paediatric anaesthesia have, during the past roughly 15 years,
caused so much concern and emotional disturbances as a plethora of animal studies that
repeatedly have shown that exposure to most of the currently used anaesthetics during a vulnerable
period of brain development (i.e. brain growth spurt or peak of synaptogenesis) may
possibly lead to neurodegeneration (particularly apoptosis) and abnormal synaptic development.
1–4 Importantly, the observed morphological abnormalities are associated with functional
deficits in learning and behaviour later in life. Initial studies were mainly performed in immature
rodent pups, but more recent studies have included non-human primates.5–7 Given the
number of neonates, infants and young children anaesthetized annually worldwide, these findings
could have significant public health implications.
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