ASA: Anesthesiologists ensure safety of anesthesia in young children

A guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, exclusive to

by Mark A. Singleton, MD

Last month, the FDA Anesthetic and Life Support Drugs Advisory Committee met to discuss various research efforts that may indicate possible connections between neurodegeneration and exposure to anesthesia in young children.

The group examined recent studies in newborn animals that show anesthetics may cause injury to the brain with long-term behavioral consequences.

In an effort to determine whether these animal studies apply to humans, two related initiatives will be utilized to further investigate and ensure the safety of pediatric anesthesia through additional non-clinical and clinical studies:

  • “Strategies for Mitigating Anesthesia-Related neuro-Toxicity in Tots” (SmartTots)
  • “Pediatric Anesthesia Safety Initiative” (PASI)

Each day anesthesiologists make patient safety a top priority and will continue to do so by actively pursuing investigations in this area of research to fully evaluate potential developmental and behavioral changes in children exposed to anesthesia. As opportunities for improvements become known, anesthesiologists will adapt to provide the safest possible care.

If you are a parent and your child needs surgery, I encourage you to speak with your child’s anesthesiologist to help guide you through the decision-making process. You also can read ASA’s letter to parents to learn more or visit

Mark A. Singleton is ASA’s Chair of the Committee on Pediatric Anesthesia.

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