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Anesthesia and Birth Study

June 23, 2010
Mayo Clinic researchers have found that children exposed to anesthesia during Cesarean delivery are not at any higher risk for later learning disabilities than children not delivered by Cesarean. These findings are recently reported in the journal Anesthesiology.

We found that the incidence of learning disabilities was equal between children who were delivered vaginally and those who were delivered via Cesarean section but with general anesthesia, says Juraj Sprung, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist who led the study. Its reassuring that the anesthetics required for Cesarean delivery do not appear to cause long-term brain problems.

Not only did the researchers find that the use of anesthesia during delivery was not harmful to the baby, they found that babies delivered by Cesarean using an epidural anesthetic (which numbs only the lower region of the body and does not involve the mother going to sleep) had a substantially reduced risk for learning disabilities later in life. The risk was reduced by about 40 percent compared to children delivered vaginally and those delivered via Cesarean section but with general anesthesia, says Dr. Sprung.

Dr. Sprung and study co-author and Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, Randall Flick, M.D., describe the studys findings.

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