Many of the doctors here at Allied Anesthesia are pediatric anesthesia experts and parents. We know how stressful it can be to have a child undergo a significant medical procedure and receive general anesthesia—especially when the child is very young and unable to understand what’s going on or communicate how they are feeling. More importantly, many parents are concerned that general anesthesia could negatively impact their child’s development, particularly if the child is an infant.
While this is an understandable concern, the science shows that general anesthesia is safe for pediatric patients. A recent study published in The Lancet found that general anesthesia poses no more risk in babies than regional anesthesia. Because most minor surgeries in babies do not take longer than an hour, the study, which included 722 infants in 7 countries, compared an hour of general anesthesia to an hour of regional anesthesia. When the children were assessed for IQ, attention, memory, executive function and behavior at age five, there were no differences between the children who had received general anesthesia and those who had received regional anesthesia.
At Allied, we have considerable experience in administering anesthesia to infants, including both premature and full-term babies. Our youngest pediatric patients can be as young as 28 weeks (gestational age). We even provide anesthesia to babies that haven’t been born yet! In these instances, known as EXIT procedures, we administer anesthesia to babies in utero that may have airway malformations so they can be delivered safely.
From our own experience and research, we know that general anesthesia, when administered carefully and correctly, is safe for use in infants, but we always appreciate studies like these that we can share with patients (or more likely, their parents).
If you’re a parent and your pediatrician has recommended a surgery that involves general anesthesia, we encourage you to talk more to your child’s doctor and get in touch with us here at Allied to learn more about our pediatric expertise.
It’s also important to know that you’re not alone—many parents are surprised to learn that general anesthesia in young children is actually fairly common. The same Lancet study notes that by age three, about 1 in 10 children will have undergone general anesthesia at least once for procedures like hernia repair, ear tube placement, tonsil removal or MRI completion.