The uncomfortable reality . . . We simply do not know if general anesthesia negatively impacts the neurocognitive development of our small children

Glenn E. Mann, Madelyn Kahana

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

21 Scopus citations


Annually in the United States more than one million children under the age of 5 years are exposed to anesthetics for therapeutic and diagnostic procedures. Pre-clinical data in animal models has consistently shown that anesthetic exposure to the developing brain results in long-term cognitive deficits. Current clinical data addressing the safety of these pharmaceutical agents on the developing human brain is limited. Recently, there has been an enormous amount of attention directed at this potential public health issue in both pre-clinical investigations and ongoing human research. A number of these studies should add to our understanding about the impact anesthetic exposure will have on the developing human brain. Until then, there is little data that absolutely reassures clinicians and parents that the pharmaceutical agents used are indeed safe for our children.The uncomfortable reality is that despite the fact that there are more than one million children younger than 5 years old who receive general anesthesia in the United States annually, and thousands more who are deeply sedated for imaging and diagnostic studies or as a necessary adjunct to care in the intensive care unit, there is little data that assures clinicians and parents that the pharmaceutical agents used are indeed safe for the developing brain. That said, there are no convincing human data to suggest that they are not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1381
Number of pages3
JournalInternational journal of pediatric otorhinolaryngology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2015



  • Anesthesia
  • Anesthetic effect
  • Developing brain
  • Neurocognition
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Pediatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Otorhinolaryngology

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