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Brain Dev. 2010 Nov;32(10):872-8. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2009.11.011. Epub 2010 Jan 8.

Unexpected neurological sequelae following propofol anesthesia in infants: Three case reports.

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CHU Montpellier, Service de Neuropédiatrie, Hôpital Gui de Chauliac, Montpellier F-34000, France.


Propofol is a widely used hypnotic agent for induction and maintenance of pediatric anesthesia with a well known safety profile. Experimental in vitro studies suggest that propofol may be toxic to developing neurons. We report the cases of three infants who underwent surgery before 2 months of age for different benign pathologies. Propofol was used for induction and maintenance of anesthesia in all cases. The three patients developed convulsions with similar clinical characteristics (cluster of recurrent clinical and subclinical seizures) between the 23th and 30th hours following anesthesia. Clinical and electroencephalographic improvement was obtained between the third and fourth day of management in pediatric intensive care unit. The seizures never recurred, and the three patients underwent further uneventful general anesthesia without propofol. Follow-up of the three patients disclosed unexpected neurological dysfunction: progressive microcephaly (head circumferences were normal at birth), developmental impairment with cognitive and behavioural disturbances in two cases, and bilateral symmetrical white-matter abnormalities on cerebral magnetic resonance imaging.


The causal relationship between propofol anesthesia and the neurological symptoms of our patients remains difficult to ascertain, but we believe that pediatricians, anesthetists and intensive care-givers should be aware of this possible adverse reaction that has never been described before.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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