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Early Anesthesia Exposure Linked to Minimal Academic Gap Later

Observational study;

Results  Among 33 514 exposed children (22 484 male and 11 030 female) and 159 619 unexposed children (105 812 male and 53 807 female) in the primary study cohort, 1 exposure before age 4 years was associated with a mean difference of 0.41% (95% CI, 0.12%-0.70%) lower school grades and 0.97% (95% CI, 0.15%-1.78%) lower IQ test scores. The magnitude of the difference was the same after multiple exposures. There was no difference in school grades with 1 exposure before ages 6 months, 7 to 12 months, 13 to 24 months, or 25 to 36 months. The overall difference was markedly less than the differences associated with sex, maternal educational level, or month of birth during the same year.

Conclusions and Relevance  Exposure to anesthesia and surgery before age 4 years has a small association with later academic performance or cognitive performance in adolescence on a population level. While more vulnerable subgroups of children may exist, the low overall difference in academic performance after childhood exposure to surgery is reassuring. These findings should be interpreted in light of potential adverse effects of postponing surgery.

I wonder how much is due to disease e.g. middle ear infection vs the anaesthesiapoi160080