General anesthetics in children: neurotoxic or neuroprotective?

  • Jéssica Farias Rebouças
  • Gylmara Bezerra de Menezes Silveira
  • Maria de Fátima Vasques Monteiro
  • Sara Araújo de Morais
  • Hermes Melo Teixeira Batista


Introduction: general anesthetics are involved in neuroprotection in adults after ischemic events and cognitive impairment, thus, they also may be associated with learning disorders in children exposed to them before three years of age.

Objective: Describe about the neurotoxic effects of general anesthetics in experimental animals and children.

Method: This is a systematic review, performed from search in databases and on PubMed using the keywords "neurotoxicity" and "general anesthetics," and "general anesthetics," "neurotoxicity", "children", "young child "and" pediatric ".

Results: The search resulted in 185 articles. Out of these, 78 met our inclusion criteria. We found that there was a significant evidence of neurotoxicity induced by general anesthetics in experimental animals that were just born, resulting in late and permanent cognitive deficits. This effect was associated with multiple exposures, exposure length of time and combination of drugs. However, some studies found cognitive impairment after a single exposure to anesthetic.

Conclusion: There is insufficient evidence to state that general anesthetics are neurotoxic and have the potential to trigger learning and behavior disabilities in children. However, we suggest caution in indicating surgery in children under three years old, analyzing risk-benefit and inserting the family in the decision process.


Keywords: Neurotoxicity; Neuroprotection; Cognitive Impairment; Children; General Anesthesics





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How to Cite
FARIAS REBOUÇAS, Jéssica et al. General anesthetics in children: neurotoxic or neuroprotective?. International Archives of Medicine, [S.l.], v. 10, feb. 2017. ISSN 1755-7682. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 21 nov. 2019. doi:
Anesthesiology & Emergency Medicine