Published studies in animals demonstrate that the use of anesthetic agents during the period of rapid brain growth or synaptogenesis results in widespread neuronal and oligodendrocyte cell loss in the developing brain and alterations in synaptic morphology and neurogenesis. Based on comparisons across species, the window of vulnerability to these changes is believed to correlate with exposures in the third trimester through the first several months of life, but may extend out to approximately 3 years of age in humans.
In primates, exposure to 3 hours of an anesthetic regimen that produced a light surgical plane of anesthesia did not increase neuronal cell loss, however, treatment regimens of 5 hours or longer increased neuronal cell loss. Data in rodents and in primates suggest that the neuronal and oligodendrocyte cell losses are associated with subtle but prolonged cognitive deficits in learning and memory. The clinical significance of these nonclinical findings is not known, and healthcare providers should balance the benefits of appropriate anesthesia in neonates and young children who require procedures against the potential risks suggested by the nonclinical data (see WARNINGS, Pediatric Neurotoxicity and PRECAUTIONS, Pregnancy and Pediatric Use).
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