Anesthesia is commonly used in patients undergoing surgeries or other complex treatments. However, it may come with risks for children. When mistakes are made during anesthesia, the consequences for children can be severe and permanent.
The case of a 4-year-old Houston girl who suffered a severe brain injury while having her tooth pulled can serve as a frightening example. Patients are frequently given anesthetics and sedative drugs during such procedures.
At some point during the procedure, the girl began to have seizures. Instead of calling emergency services, the dentist treated her with an additional sedative. Several hours later, emergency services were finally called, but it was too late and the girl suffered a severe brain injury. A routine trip to the dentist turned into a nightmare for a child and her family. The girl’s brain injury is so severe that she is confined to a wheelchair and fed through a tube.
This is obviously an extreme example, but it is by no means the only case. Similar cases have happened in recent years. Two years ago, a 13-year-old California girl suffered a severe brain injury while under anesthesia because she had untreated sleep apnea.
Can Anesthesia Hurt Childhood Brain Development?
While medical mistakes during anesthesia can cause brain injury, there has been speculation that anesthesia in general can be harmful to children. A study published in the journal Pediatrics suggested it was possible anesthesia could heighten the risk of children developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, although no definitive link was found. Another study in Australia claimed children who underwent anesthesia before three years old were more likely to have difficulty using language skills.
Even if these studies are correct, anesthesia is required for many types of childhood surgeries, such as a tonsillectomy. The risks of being hurt by anesthesia are less severe than not treating serious health conditions. Most severe injuries during anesthesia occur when medical mistakes are made by doctors or hospitals (as we saw in the two cases above).
Fortunately, the medical community has expressed a continued interest in exploring the risks of anesthesia on developing brains, as there is concern some children may be more vulnerable to its adverse effects.
Shapiro Law Group is a Tampa Bay medical malpractice law firm specializing in representing patients hurt by hospital negligence.