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Pediatric Anesthesia Linked to Problems with Learning, Memory, Behavior

New research suggests that side effects of pediatric anesthesia may cause children to develop memory and learning disorders, as well as behavioral problems.  

According to a report by Science Daily, a retrospective study found that when children under 3 years-old are given the pediatric anesthesia drug ketamine during long surgeries or for repeated procedures, may be more likely to exhibit problems with learning, memory and behavior as they reached school-age.

A study published last week in the medical journal Neural Regeneration Research, which evaluated the side effects of ketamine on rats, found signs of neural toxicity and neuron death caused by the drug. The results were detected using molecular biology techniques.

Ketamine is a common anesthetic used in combination with a sedative during surgery as general anesthesia. It is commonly used as a pediatric anesthesia, but is also used in veterinary medicine. Other side effects of the drug sometimes include hallucinations and elevated blood pressure.

Researchers say the findings of the study are directly in line of the results of other research that has reached similar conclusions. They warn the use of ketamine may cause long term neurological damage in children, leading to larger disabilities in a child’s learning and memory function.

Another clinical retrospective study found children under three years of age who repeatedly received ketamine over several occasions or because of long time surgery, were found to have neurotoxicity in the developing neurons.

The exposure to the anesthesia during surgery eventually caused children to later exhibit learning and memory disorders, such as dyslexia, hyperactivity, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or behavioral abnormalities when they reached school age.

The exposure may even lead to the cell death of neurons in children’s brains, much like the results from the studies conducted on rats. Researchers urge health care providers and parents to weigh the risks with the benefits when considering using ketamine during surgery.

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