Effects of Anesthesia During Youth Oral Cleft Surgery

Researchers in the past have been concerned of the effects of Anesthesia during youth oral cleft surgery, worrying it would cause cognitive impairment later in life. This has caused a great deal of worry and anxiety for many parents. Oral cleft surgeries in particular were thought of to have the highest risk, due to how early they are performed in a child’s life. Some studies have shown that children that undergo surgery from an oral cleft often experience cognitive dysfunction, and face many academic challenges. While some thought this may be linked to anesthesia at such a young age, a recent study has proven this to be untrue.

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Iowa have recently published results of a study examining the theory that there is no connection between anesthesia exposure and cognitive impairment. Researchers studied a group of 558 teenagers who had undergone surgery for cleft lip, cleft palate, or both at a young age. Research showed that 509 of the oral cleft children had undergone at least one cleft operation and were exposed to an anesthetic. Results of the study done on the adolescents that underwent cleft surgery were compared to a control group.

Although these teenagers in the study were exposed to anesthesia at a very young age, researchers found no significant difference in the teens that underwent cleft lip surgery, cleft palate surgery, or both, and the teenagers in the control group. Leading researchers to believe there is no link or negative effects of anesthesia during youth oral cleft surgery. One difference they did find was that adolescents that had only had cleft palate surgery did have lower test scores than those in the control group, but their surgeries were generally performed later than children with other types of clefts.

“This finding is remarkable,” said Dr. Nicola Clausen of the research group. “Studies like the present one cannot definitely prove that anesthetic drugs do not harm developing brains. However, it can put the potential threats into perspective because other factors more importantly impact these children’s neurocognitive development.”

While there is still research being done on the effects of anesthesia during youth oral cleft surgery, studies like this can give parents of children needing these surgeries some piece of mind before their child is put under anesthesia. If you or someone you know is preparing for a procedure requiring anesthesia, click here to visit our anesthesia information page to find out more.