Psychological effects of repeated general anesthesia in children

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Abstract

Background

Although methods for reducing preoperative anxiety have been a major interest of pediatric anesthesiologists, there are no reports of the effects of repeated anesthesia on psychological development of children.

Methods

To determine the overall effect of multiple anesthetics on the psychology of children, we undertook to compare the children undergoing repeated anesthesia (Group S) for the treatment of corrosive esophagitis with a control group (Group C) with chronic renal disease and frequent hospital admissions. Psychological tests and diagnosis of children Group S (n = 23) were compared prospectively with Group C (n = 20). All children had been appropriately treated over the previous 5 years and 50% of patients in Group C had general anesthesia once and those in Group S underwent at least 5 GAs. Parents completed a child behavior checklist (CBCL) and Marital Conflict Questionnaire; the children were evaluated by a child psychiatrist using DSM-IV criteria and completed the Child Depression Inventory (CDI).

Results

The children in Group S underwent a total of 251 (11 ± 7) GAs over 4–60 months. The incidence of psychopathology was nine and 10 children in groups S and C, respectively. The CBCL and CDI scores were parallel with a psychiatric diagnosis. Marital conflict scores were higher in Group S.

Conclusions

Both chronic disease states affect psychology of children. Repeated anesthesia in addition to chronic disease does not seem to disturb the child's psychological health further when tentative and precautious approach modalities are undertaken.

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