With an estimated two million children undergoing surgery in the United States every year, the concern for whether or not general anesthesia is safe for youth has been a pressing issue in the pediatric community for decades. However, a new study led by the Columbia University Medical Center has concluded that a single, short term exposure to general anesthesia is perfectly safe for children that are in good health.
The concern for whether or not there was a potential for harm originates from a previous study which found that young animals who were exposed to general anesthesia during rapid brain development showed signs of developmental and neurological issues. However, the multi-center PANDA(Pediatric Anesthesia Neurodevelopment Assessment) study, led by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and New-York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, sought to find out whether or not this occurrence found in animal testing occurs in human toddlers as well.
Beverley Orser, MD, PhD, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Toronto and a member of SmartTots' Steering Committee and Scientific Advisory Board commented on the study saying "The PANDA study was well designed, and supports the conclusion that healthy young children undergoing a single, short-duration exposure to general anesthesia may not be at risk. Unlike some of the previous epidemiological studies, the PANDA study was able to account for variables such as surgery, medical condition, and length of exposure, which is extremely important.
Members of the team at Columbia University Medical Center and New-York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital insist there is more work to be done on this particular matter; however there is hope that we can finally put the worries of many parents to rest.