ASA President Jeffrey Plagenhoef, M.D., recently sent the following letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in response to a December 2016 article about young children and anesthesia:
"Regarding the article "New Concerns about Anesthesia for Young Children" (Dec. 20), any parent whose child requires surgery or a medical procedure with anesthesia can attest to the anxiety the prospect provokes. However, anesthetic and sedation drugs are necessary for children who require surgery or other procedures, especially when they face life-threatening conditions requiring surgery that should not be delayed.
The FDA's recent warning may cause additional alarm for parents, but the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the nation's largest organization of physician anesthesiologists, wants parents and the public to know that physician anesthesiologists have been studying the effects of anesthesia in people of all ages and in animals for decades. Two well-designed, prospective human studies published in 2015 and 2016 demonstrated that a single anesthetic of short duration did not have any adverse effect on the developing brain. This should be reassuring to parents about the safety of their child undergoing anesthesia.
Every physician anesthesiologist tailors the doses of all anesthetics to our patients' needs, age and physiology. We design the best anesthetic plan for each patient, the type of surgery and their individual health and medical history. As patient safety advocates, our number one concern is the safety of all our patients. We have made significant inroads, but continue to support rigorous research to investigate how early life anesthetic exposure may affect children's development.
Jeffrey Plagenhoef, M.D.
American Society of Anesthesiologists"