The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that repeated or lengthy use of general anesthesia or sedation drugs for children younger than three or pregnant women in their third trimester may affect youngsters' developing brains.
Children, who received general anesthesia for surgery before age four, had diminished language comprehension, lower IQ and decreased gray matter density in posterior regions of their brain, according to a new study by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
No one could figure out how anesthesia drugs interact with the brain to block pain and induce a coma-like, memory-free state. The debate has divided the anesthesia research community into two camps: one that believes anesthetics primarily act on the cell membrane (the lipid bilayer) of nerve cells, perhaps altering it to the point that embedded proteins cannot function normally. The other says the membrane proteins themselves are altered directly by anesthetics.