Childhood Anesthesia Use May Increase ADHD Risk: Study

A new study suggests that there could be a link between the use of anesthesia and the development of behavioral and learning problems. 

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic indicate that children who have undergone more than one surgery before the age of two that required general anesthesia may face an increased risk of developing Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) later in life.

In a study published in the latest issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers looked at all children born in Rochester, Minnesota, between January 1, 1976 and December 31, 1982, who remained in Rochester after the age of five. The researchers found that 7.6% overall were later diagnosed with ADHD. However, among children who underwent surgery and anesthesia two or more times before the age of two, that number jumped to 18%.

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Researchers ruled out having a single surgery that required general anesthesia and giving anesthesia to the mother during birth procedures, such as a Cesarean section. Those procedures appeared to have no effect on whether a child later developed diabetes.

A previous study by the same team found links between children with reading, language and math problems and children who had multiple surgeries.

While the study’s findings indicate an association, it does not prove a causative link between anesthesia and ADHD development. Some experts have pointed out that the surgeries undergone by the children could have been for congenital birth defects, which themselves could have caused ADHD, among other problems.

Many believe genetics and environmental factors play a strong role in the development of ADHD, which is a disorder that makes it difficult for children and adults to focus or make executive decisions, leading to restlessness and impulse control.


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