Anesthesia, if limited, can be safe for baby's brain

A study finds strong evidence that one episode of general anesthesia doesn't hurt a baby's brain development

A study finds strong evidence that anesthesia during a short surgery doesn't hurt a baby's brain development.

The research can't answer broader safety questions about repeated or prolonged anesthesia. But it's reassuring for parents whose children face a single, uncomplicated surgery. Anesthesia has been linked with brain damage in young animals.

The study involved 447 infants in seven countries needing hernia repairs. The babies were randomly assigned to get either anesthesia with gas, or an injection that blocks sensation below the waist.

At age 5, the children took IQ tests. Both groups' average scores were in the normal range. There were no differences in parent-reported problems such as autism, attention deficit disorder or speech delays.

The study was published Thursday in the medical journal Lancet.