Children exposed to anaesthetic early in life 'have double risk of ADHD'
Children given two or more doses of anaesthetic before they turned three years old had more than double the incidence of ADHD (file photo)
Toddlers exposed to anaesthesia are more likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a study has found.
Children who were given two or more doses of anaesthetic before they turned three years old had more than double the incidence of ADHD than children who had no exposure, the Mayo Clinic research found.
Dr David Warner, a pediatric anaesthsiologist and investigator on the observational study, decided to investigate the effects of anaesthesia when basic science studies began to suggest it causes changes in the brains of young animals.
'Those studies piqued our interest,' Dr. Warner says. 'We were sceptical that the findings in animals would correlate with kids, but it appears that it does.'
The study used results of an existing epidemiological study that looked at educational records of children born between 1976 and 1982 in Rochester, Minnesota, and determined those who developed some form of learning disability or ADHD.
Among 341 cases of ADHD in those younger than 19, researchers traced medical records in the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a decades-long database of all patient care in Olmsted County, Minnesota, looking for exposure to anaesthesia and surgery before they were three years old.
Children who had no exposure to anaesthesia and surgery had ADHD at a rate of 7.3 per cent. The rate after a single exposure was approximately the same.
For children who had two or more exposures to anaesthesia and surgery, the rate of ADHD was 17.9 per cent
For children who had two or more exposures to anaesthesia and surgery, the rate of ADHD was 17.9 per cent – even after researchers adjusted for other factors, including gestational age, sex and birth weight.
The results of the study, however, do not definitively mean that anaesthesia causes ADHD.
'This is an observational study,' D Warner says.
'A wide range of other factors might be responsible for the higher frequency of ADHD in children with multiple exposures.
'The findings certainly do suggest that further investigation into this area is warranted, and investigators at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere are actively pursuing these studies.'