Anesthesia not good for young brains

Sometimes anesthesia on children is unavoidable but these articles discuss why anesthesia in young brains should be kept to a minimum.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2009) — Mayo Clinic researchers have found that children who require multiple surgeries under anesthesia during their first three years of life are at higher risk of developing learning disabilities later. Several studies have suggested that anesthetic drugs may cause abnormalities in the brains of young animals. This is the first study in humans to suggest that exposure of children to anesthesia may have similar consequences. …..

The research team, led by Robert Wilder, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, found that although one exposure to anesthesia was not harmful, more than one almost doubled the risk that a child would be identified as having a learning disability before age 19. The risk also increased with longer durations of anesthesia….. more: http://tiny.cc/8znZs

And now a new study:

ScienceDaily (Mar. 9, 2010) — There is a link between repeated anaesthesia in children and memory impairment, though physical activity can help to form new cells that improve memory, reveals new research from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The research team discovered, by chance, a link between stem cell loss and repeated anaesthesia when working on another study. They wanted to find out what happens to the brain’s stem cells when exposed to strong magnetic fields, for example during an MRI scan. The study was carried out using rats and mice, and showed that while the magnetic fields did not have any tangible effects on the animals, the repeated anaesthesia did.

“We found that repeated anaesthesia wiped out a large portion of the stem cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is important for memory,” says Blomgren. “The stem cells in the hippocampus can form new nerve and glial cells, and the formation of nerve cells is considered important for our memory function.”

Their results could also be linked to impaired memory in animals as they got older. The effect was evident only in young rats or mice that had been anaesthetised, not when adult animals were anaesthetised. This may be because stem cells are more sensitive in an immature brain, even though there are fewer of them as we get older…http://tiny.cc/caHpr

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