The first sentence alone made me gasp: “Anesthetics induce widespread cell death, permanent neuronal deletion, and neurocognitive impairment in immature animals, raising substantial concerns about similar effects occurring in young children.” I thought. Considering that 6 million American children—including 1.5 million babies under the age of 1—undergo general anesthesia each year, this seemed like a pretty serious issue to delve into.Twenty studies and several phone calls later, I’m feeling a lot better about my kids’ brains.
For many, that concern likely increased in recent weeks with reports that seemingly commonplace procedures — in one case a tonsillectomy, in another, dental work — ended in two children's deaths.
Tonsillectomy-related fatalities are not common; they occur in the "1 in every 30,000 range," says physician Richard Rosenfeld, director of the Institute for Advanced Otolaryngology at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn.
Keep in mind that anesthesia provides huge benefits.
Not only would it be cruel to perform surgeries on children without it, but also the stress and pain from the experience would likely harm kids’ brains..
That was the case for Jahi Mc Math,13, who was declared brain-dead by physicians at Children's Hospital Oakland in December after surgery to remove her tonsils and treat other tissue to improve her breathing.
One of the most common complications associated with the surgery is severe bleeding, and that "would be the most common reason for the 1 in 30,000 deaths," Rosenfeld says."It's not a minor, trivial procedure but a serious surgery" that occasionally has tragic results, he says.
Therefore, many children and even some adults require sedation even though the procedure does not cause any pain.
The need for sedation is assessed by nurses and doctors responsible for her care in the MRI scanner based on her age, medical history and experience with past medical procedures.
About 530,000 tonsillectomies a year are done on children younger than 15, down considerably from 30 years ago when the number peaked at around 1.5 million, Rosenfeld says.