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Increased ADHD Rates in Children Exposed to Anesthesia

Last Updated: February 03, 2012.

Repeated exposure to general anesthesia before age 2 years is associated with increased risk for later development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to a study published in the February issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

FRIDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Repeated exposure to general anesthesia before age 2 years is associated with increased risk for later development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study published in the February issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Juraj Sprung, M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues included all children born between Jan. 1, 1976, and Dec. 31, 1982, in Rochester, Minn., who remained in the area after age 5 years. Cases of ADHD diagnosed before age 19 years were identified.

The researchers found that, among the 5,357 children studied, 341 ADHD cases were identified (estimated cumulative incidence, 7.6 percent; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 6.8 to 8.4 percent). For children with no postnatal exposure to anesthesia before the age of 2 years, the cumulative incidence of ADHD at age 19 years was 7.3 percent (95 percent CI, 6.5 to 8.1 percent). For single and two or more exposures, the estimates were 10.7 percent (95 percent CI, 6.8 to 14.4 percent) and 17.9 percent (95 percent CI, 7.2 to 27.4 percent), respectively. After adjusting for other variables, exposure to multiple procedures requiring general anesthesia (hazard ratio [HR], 1.95; 95 percent CI, 1.03 to 3.71), but not single procedures (HR, 1.18; 95 percent CI, 0.79 to 1.77), was associated with an increased risk for ADHD.

"Children repeatedly exposed to procedures requiring general anesthesia before age 2 years are at increased risk for the later development of ADHD even after adjusting for comorbidities," the authors write.

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