Does Anesthesia Affect My Child?




Dear Parent,

You may have recently heard of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ongoing review of the use of anesthesia and sedatives in infants and children. This review is taking place because several studies in animals show that commonly used anesthetics may affect the development of the brain.  It is difficult to know whether the animal studies apply to humans – some of these used very large doses of anesthetic medications for a prolonged period of time.  It is still unclear if the adverse effects described in animals occur in human infants. 

As an organization of 46,000 anesthesiologists, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) would like to offer parents the following information on the use of anesthesia and sedatives in children who need surgery.

As physicians, patient safety is our top priority. We take very seriously the faith and trust that patients and their families place in us and we strive to consistently use the best, most current information to minimize discomfort and maximize safety. We also support the following:

• More research to fully evaluate potential developmental and behavioral changes in children who are exposed to anesthesia.
• Additional efforts to better understand and prevent risks that anesthesia and sedatives might have in pediatric patients.
• The free exchange of information between anesthesiologists and parents about anesthesia and how to improve the experience when a child needs surgery or sedation.

Parents with a child who needs surgery should consult with their child’s doctors to help guide them through the decision making process. If the surgery is required, please do not let concerns about the anesthesia delay the treatment your child may need.

We are hopeful that new scientific understanding will improve our ability to make the anesthetic and sedation experience of infants and children even safer.  Anesthesiologists are among the leaders in this area of research.   As opportunities for improvements become known, anesthesiologists will adapt those practices to provide the best possible care.

For more information on this topic, please visit the SmartTots website.


American Society of Anesthesiologists

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The ASA does not employ physician anesthesiologists on staff and cannot respond to patient inquiries regarding specific medical conditions or anesthesia administration. Please direct any questions related to anesthetics, procedures or treatment outcomes to the patient’s anesthesiologist or general physician.