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Though anesthesia is commonly used in surgeries, could it be considered safe for kids as well? A study conducted by experts at Mayo Clinic has apparently established a relation between children going through many surgeries that necessitate general anesthesia before the age of 2 and learning defects encountered later in life.

As part of the analysis, records of around 5,357 children from the Rochester Epidemiology Project were inspected along with the educational records of 1,050 children whose birth took place between 1976 and 1982.

David Warner, M.D., Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and co-author of the study remarked, “After removing factors related to existing health issues, we found that children exposed more than once to anesthesia and surgery prior to age 2 were approximately three times as likely to develop problems related to speech and language when compared to children who never underwent surgeries at that young age.”

Amidst the 5,357 children in the group, nearly 350 of them went through operations by utilizing general anesthesia before the age of 2 and were pitted against 700 children for whom anesthesia was not used. In the former set of children, almost 286 of them underwent 1 surgery while the rest were operated more than once. Nearly 36.6% of kids who encountered multiple surgeries and 23.6% of those who faced only 1 surgery seemed to develop learning impairments as they grew older.

Among those who had never been through operations and anesthesia before the age of 2, 21.2% of children apparently developed learning disabilities. Notably, no increase in behavioral conditions was found in kids with many surgeries.

According to lead author, Randall Flick, this study does not encourage a change of practice and delay of essential processes. He urges parents to talk to their doctors regarding operations to be conducted for a child who had not attained 2 years of age.

The study will be published in Pediatrics.