Is Anesthesia Safe For Children?

March 21, 2011

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As the Chief of Anesthesiology at Texas Children's Hospital, I am well aware of the raised public awareness about the possible effects of anesthesia on childhood neurological development. I believe it is important for all parents to understand the facts around this issue so that you can feel confident about entrusting your children to our care.

The question of anesthetic effect on neurodevelopment has been raised more and more frequently over the past few years. To answer this, two recent studies have been conducted, including one at our Texas Children's Heart Center, to learn more about this issue. We found that the amount of anesthesia and sedation received in the perioperative period for congenital heart surgery in neonates DOES NOT affect neurological outcomes (based on testing at 12-24 months of age). Two additional studies are currently underway as well.

At Texas Children's, over 32,000 patients undergo anesthesia and sedation every year. Our practice has been and always will be to treat each child as an individual, and to give that child the right anesthesia drugs and doses, to ensure safe and successful completion of the surgery.

Because children are so small, we have specially-trained staff dedicated to anesthetizing children — and significant complications are very rare. If you're interested in learning more details, I encourage you to visit the Smart Tots website. You can also ask a question below and I will answer them as best I can.

Please know that nothing is more important to Texas Children's Hospital than the safety and health of the children it is our privilege to treat every day. We also believe it is important to have an open and honest dialogue with our families and I hope this blog entry will help foster such a conversation.

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