National
Anaesthesia may harm memory: study
Publish Date: Jun 18, 2014
Anaesthesia may harm memory: study
Mulago Hospital staff receive an Anaesthesia machine
  • mail
  • img
newvision

PARIS - General anaesthesia before the age of one may impair memory later in childhood, possibly life-long, a study said Monday.

This was the conclusion of scientists who compared the recollection skills of two groups of children -- some who had undergone anaesthesia in infancy and others who had not.

The children, aged six to 11 and divided into two groups of 28 each, were tested over a period of 10 months for their ability to recollect specific drawings and details therein.

The children who had been anaesthetised as babies had about 28 percent less recollection on average than their peers, and scored 20 percent lower in tests that assessed how much detail they could remember about the drawings.

"The children did not differ in tests measuring intelligence or behaviour, but those who had received anaesthesia had significantly lower recollection scores," said a media summary provided by the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, which published the results.

Recollection plays a role in autobiographical memory, classroom learning and reading comprehension.

"Thus, even subtle recollection deficits may have immediate consequences and reduce the child's potential to learn over time, which future studies should examine more closely," wrote the University of California team.

They found no difference between children who had been anaesthetised only once and those put under several times.

The team observed no discernable effect of anaesthesia on familiarity -- a second function of memory which evokes a sense of an experience as opposed to recollection, which deals with the details.

In a parallel study, the same researchers showed that 33 rats put under general anaesthesia during their first week of life also suffered long-term deficits in recollecting odours, compared to never-anaesthetised rats.

None of the rats had suffered any injury, which the scientists took to prove it was the anaesthesia that affected memory and not any condition which had necessitated the anaesthesia for surgery, the scientists said.

As children cannot be anaesthetised for no reason, the team could not conclusively rule out the reason for the surgery as the cause of the memory impairment. But they said their observations in rats are likely to hold true in humans.

Deficit may be 'life-long'

Other studies have shown that anaesthesia can kill brain cells and affect the working of synapses, but its impact on human memory has been unclear.

Further research is needed to determine how long the impairment will last, but study co-author Greg Stratmann said rat studies "suggest that the deficit is life-long".

"We've never seen the deficit go away in rats. In fact, we have seen it get worse over time," he told AFP by email.

It is also not known whether anaesthesia might have a similar brain effect when given to older children or adults.

Stratmann cautioned against drawing far-reaching conclusions from this single study.

"However, these findings should get you thinking about whether an anaesthetic that may previously have been considered harmless is really necessary.

"I am talking about imaging procedures and other non-surgical procedures that may currently be done under anaesthesia for the sake of convenience. It is possible that some anaesthetics in young children can be avoided. This should be done whenever possible."

RELATED ARTICLES

How anaesthesia is given

Will anaesthesia affect my mother during surgery

How to recover from anaesthesia

Safety of anaesthesia

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Pakistani sexual abuse case judgment flops
The judgment of a case in which two Pakistanis’ are charged with having canal knowledge against order of nature and domestic violence has been adjourned to December 22, 2014 by the Chief magistrate Buganda Road court, Lillian Bucyana....
Daniel Kidega is new EALA Speaker
Ugandan legislator Daniel Kidega has been named the new Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, replacing Margaret Zziwa....
Archbishop raps KCCA over transfer of taxi park to Usafi
Archbishop Lwanga expresses concern over the difficult access of Nsambya Hospital following the transfer of taxis from the Old Taxi Park to Usafi Park....
Kisenyi Al shabaab terror linked case for January 5
The case of the 10 al-shabaab-linked terror suspects arrested in September in the city suburb of Kisenyi, has been pushed to January 5....
Man gets life sentence for raping, impregnating own daughter
A 54-year old man is to spend the rest of his life in prison for raping and impregnating his 14-year-old daughter....
Court rejects witnesses of ex-army commander
The General Court Martial in Makindye has rejected nine witnesses of the former commander of UPDF Battle Group 11+ in Somalia Col. Hassan Kimbowa....
Do you agree with the ban on the export of maids?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter