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Mol Neurobiol. 2013 Oct;48(2):288-93. doi: 10.1007/s12035-013-8488-5. Epub 2013 Jul 3.

Functional implications of an early exposure to general anesthesia: are we changing the behavior of our children?

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Dept. of Anesthesiology, University of Virginia Health System, PO Box 800710, Charlottesville, VA, 22908-0710, USA,


There is a rapidly growing body of animal and clinical evidence suggesting that the exposure to anesthetics and sedatives during the critical stages of brain development results in long-lasting (perhaps permanent) impairment in cognitive development in a variety of mammalian species. With improved understanding of the mechanisms responsible for behavioral outcomes of anesthesia-induced developmental neurotoxicity, there is hope for development of protective strategies that will enable safe use of anesthesia in the youngest members of our society. Here, I review presently available evidence regarding anesthesia-induced neurocognitive and social behavioral impairments and possible strategies for preventing them. I also review limited and somewhat controversial evidence that examines the effects of nociception and surgical stimulation on anesthesia--induced developmental neurotoxicity.

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