Can Anesthesia Raise the Risk of ADHD?

Any surgery involves risks, but the hazards for the youngest patients going under the knife may be more lasting than doctors had thought.

In a study involving 5,357 children born in Rochester, Minn., scientists found that children who had had two or more surgeries by the time they were 2 were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD by the time they were 19, compared with youngsters who had had only one surgical procedure.

“It’s not the finding we wanted,” says the study’s senior author Dr. David Warner, professor of anesthesiology at Mayo Clinic. “When we started the study, we hoped we could say there was no evidence of any problems. But unfortunately that’s not what we found.”

The results support an earlier study he and his colleagues conducted looking at the effect of multiple surgeries on children’s learning disabilities. In that investigation, they also found that youngsters who had had more operations by age 2 were more likely to have problems with reading, writing and language, as well as behavioral issues in school.

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