Sometimes when a child is born with a birth defect or a cognitive impairment, there seems to be no reason why. Other times, that child might have been the victim of medical negligence, or exposed to a substance which permanently altered their body chemistry or their brain. Discovering the “whys” is often one of the driving motivations of scientists and doctors who seek to put an end to such challenges forever.
A new report published in Anesthesiology finds that “studies in humans have shown a higher prevalence of learning disabilities in children that received multiple exposures to general anesthesia before the age of 4 yr.” The authors’ research found “Increased emotional behavior in monkeys after anesthesia exposure in infancy may reflect long-term adverse effects of anesthesia,” primarily, an increase in anxiety and anxiety-related behaviors.
Though the two findings are different, what is similar is that exposure to anesthesia as a young age can cause people (and primates) to experience cognitive and behavior affects for the rest of their lives.
Other causes of learning disabilities
Labor and delivery malpractice is a leading cause of permanent brain injuries in newborns, which can cause cognitive difficulties and learning disabilities later in life. Some of the more common examples of this kind of negligence include:
- Oxygen deprivation. Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE, if the medical term for oxygen deprivation. Any time the brain is deprived of oxygen for more than a few seconds, a person runs the risk of suffering permanent brain damage. Umbilical cord problems (like nuchal cords and prolapse) can lead to oxygen deprivation.
- Undiagnosed infections. If the mother has an infection that is undiagnosed and untreated, that infection can spread to the child. The fetus may then spike a fever, which could cause permanent brain damage.
- Undiagnosed or untreated jaundice. Kernicterus is a specific form of brain damage condition caused by untreated jaundice. It can eventually cause a child to have seizures.
- Physical trauma. Misuse of forceps or vacuum extractors can cause physical trauma to the baby, including a cracked skull. If the damage penetrates the brain, or if the brain swells without any treatment, the effects could be permanent.
This latest study may prove to be a link in a larger body of research that helps us all understand how easily (and seriously) children are affected by medicines designed to protect them. It is a study well-worth watching in the future.