Neurotoxicity - A Position Statement

As paediatric anaesthetists we often get asked, “Will this anaesthetic cause damage to my child’s brain”?

Children’s brains are continually developing and changing in response to the environment in which they find themselves; surely it is imperative to know whether the medications we give could alter the way in which children perceive and interact with that environment? Unfortunately there is no simple answer.

The controversy arose when studies showed that giving anaesthesia to baby rats and primates caused damage to some nerve cells in the brain, affecting their development and causing difficulties with learning and memory.

Why can we not extrapolate these results to human babies and children?

First, despite how you may sometimes feel, children are not animals. Their brains don’t grow at the same rate or in comparable stages of development as a rat’s, and the mechanisms they have to repair themselves are different.

For more information please view the attached document below.

Information gathered from SASA (South African Association of Anaesthetists)

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