July 28, 2009

Anesthesia may not harm baby’s brain

U.S. researchers found in a preliminary study that the use of anesthesia during delivery was not harmful to the baby.

The Mayo Clinic study, published in Anesthesiology, found the incidence of learning disabilities was equal between children who were delivered vaginally and those who were delivered via C-section but with general anesthesia.

Study co-author Dr. Randall Flick said the study also found babies delivered by Cesarean using an epidural anesthetic -- which numbs only the lower region of the body and does not involve the mother going to sleep -- had a substantially reduced risk for learning disabilities later in life.

The risk was reduced by about 40 percent compared to children delivered vaginally and those delivered via Cesarean-section but with general anesthesia, study leader Dr. Juraj Sprung said in a statement.

However, Flick cautioned the study is preliminary and changes to medical practice should not be considered at this point.

What we've found is an association between two things, Flick said in a statement. One is the way a child was delivered, either vaginally or under regional or general anesthesia. The other is a difference in the incidence of learning disabilities as the child attended school.