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Surgery/Anesthesia: Effects on Child Development

JAMA Pediatrics; ePub 2018 Nov 5; O’Leary, et al

Children who had surgical procedures that require general anesthesia before primary school entry were not found to be at increased risk of adverse child development outcomes compared with their biological siblings who did not have surgery, according to a recent study. This retrospective sibling-matched cohort study included sibling pairs aged 5 to 6 years with the same birth mother who had Early Development Instrument (EDI) data completed. Researchers found:

  • Of the 187,226 eligible children for whom the EDI was completed, a total of 10,897 sibling pairs (21,794 children; 53.8% female; mean [SD] age, 5.7 [0.3] years) were subsequently identified, including 2,346 with only 1 child exposed to surgery.
  • No significant differences were found between exposed and unexposed children in early developmental vulnerability (697 of 3,080 [22.6%] vs 3,739 of 18,714 [20.0%]; adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.03) or for each of the 5 major EDI domains (aOR for language andcognitive development, 0.96; aOR for physical health and well-being,1.09; aOR for social knowledge and competence, 0.98; aOR for emotional health and maturity, 0.98; and aOR for communication skills and general knowledge, 0.90), after adjusting for confounding factors.


O’Leary JD, Janus M, Duku E, et al. Influence of surgical procedures and general anesthesia on child development before primary school entry among matched sibling pairs. [Published online ahead of print November 5, 2018]. JAMA Pediatrics. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.3662.