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Kids, Anesthesia, and ADHD

February 6, 2012

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Affecting three to five percent of children in the United States, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most diagnosed behavior disorder in childhood.  ADHD is a problem with a combination of inattentiveness, over-activity, or impulsivity.  A recent study found that multiple exposures at a young age to anesthesia are associated with higher rates of ADHD.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic began to study how anesthesia affects a child’s brain because past studies found that anesthesia used in surgery changes the brain in young animals.  “Those studies piqued our interest.  We were skeptical that the findings in animals would correlate with kids, but it appears that it does,” the Mayo Clinic pediatric anesthesiologist and investigator David Warner, M.D., was quoted as saying.

Existing epidemiological results that looked at educational records of children born between 1976 and 1982 in Rochester, Minn., were used to determine those who developed ADHD.  Among 341 cases of ADHD in patients younger than 19, researchers found medical records in an existing database of all patient care in Olmsted County, Minn., looking for anesthesia exposure before age 3.  Children with at least one exposure or no exposure to anesthesia had ADHD at a rate of 7.3 %.  For those who had two or more exposures to anesthesia experienced ADHD at a rate of 17.9%.  Even after researchers adjusted for factors including, gestational age, birth weight, sex, and health conditions, the prevalence of ADHD in children exposed to two or more anesthetics more than doubled.

Dr. Warner was quoted as saying, “The results of the study do not definitely mean that anesthesia causes ADHD.  This is an observational study.  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.”

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, February 2012