Mar 24, 2009

Learning Disabilities Linked to Early Surgeries

Young children undergoing repeated anesthesia may be at increased risk for learning disabilities, researchers here said.

In a retrospective cohort study, children with two exposures to anesthesia before age 4 were 59% more likely than unexposed children to be diagnosed with learning disabilities (95% CI 6% to 137%) according to Jurajsurgery Sprung, M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic, and colleagues reporting online in Anesthesiology.

Youngsters with three or more exposures had a 2.6-fold increased risk of learning disabilities (95% CI 1.6 to 4.2), the researchers found.

I find this study to be especially interesting. My twelve year old son was diagnosed with learning disabilities at the age of six. Prior to that, he had undergone two surgeries. The first surgery was to place tubes in his ears and remove his tonsils. The second was a insert tubes for the second time and to remove his adenoids.

To think that the anesthesia from those surgeries could have possibly contributed to his learning disabilities is mind blowing. The doctors who were trying to help him could have possibly been responsible for his learning difficulties now.

I am anxious for more research to be done on this topic. Had your LD child undergone surgery prior to being diagnosed? Do you think there is a link between the two?

Full story available via: MedPage Today


  1. Please, just remember, that correlation does not prove causation. It is a common mistake for non-scientists to hear a study that shows a correlation between two phenomena to assume that means there is a causal link between them. I'm not saying that anesthesia might not be a contributing factor in learning disabilities, but that there could be other explanations, such as a genetic link between learning disabilities and a tendency to have common childhood ear, nose and throat problems that lead to common surgeries such as tubes in ears and tonsillectomies, for example. Though, if this study is legitimate, I agree with your opinion that more research is needed soon, to determine if there is in fact a causal link. If there is, that is something that parents need to know.

  2. If this is true then, it means that anesthesia being used for children to have their tooth extracted can possibly risk their learning abilities. Researchers must look into this before many other children affects their learning abilities because of anesthesia.

  3. I have been studying books an learning about trauma with adoption and youth trauma. I was able to have lunch one afternoon with Karin Pervis...She has amazing and had at least 15 years of research showing how early trauma affects development. I have also worked with many kids, including my own 3 adopted children. A music intervention called Berard ait has helped 2 of the three reconnect and become successful. My two boys are just one example on I am always happy to talk to parents about my road to recovery with my children.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love comments and feedback!