Evid Based Med doi:10.1136/eb-2012-101084
  • Harms
  • Cohort study

Single surgical procedure with general anaesthesia early in life is associated with subsequent impaired language development and cognitive function

  1. Andreas W Loepke
  1. Department of Anesthesia, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Andreas W Loepke
    Department of Anesthesia, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Ave, ML 2001, Cincinnati, OH45229, USA; pedsanesthesia{at}

Commentary on: Ing C, Dimaggio C, Whitehouse A, et al. Long-term differences in language and cognitive function after childhood exposure to anesthesia. Pediatrics 2012;130:e476–85.


Thus far, more than 250 studies in immature animals have demonstrated that exposure to commonly used anaesthetics produces neuronal cell death, alters brain development and may lead to neurocognitive impairment.1 ,2 Similarly, in humans, an association between learning disabilities and two or more anaesthetic exposures has been observed in some studies, as most recently reported in children under 2 years of age.3


Ing and colleagues examined individually administered neuropsychological tests performed at 10 years of age in over 2500 members of a birth cohort born in Western Australia between 1989 and 1992. Children who had undergone a surgical procedure under 3 years of age (n=321) were compared with those who did not (n=2287). Language skills were evaluated using the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, …