Recent findings that appeared in the February issue of the Journal of Neuroscience suggest that brain damage occurred in children who had used common anaesthesia drugs. The researchers, who studied the effect of commonly used anaesthesia drugs in paediatric surgery, on infant rats, found that the rats suffered from learning and memory problems. The researchers anaesthetized 7-day-old rats with a combination of anaesthesia drugs - midazolam, nitrous oxide and isoflurane and divided the rats into three groups after they recovered from anaesthesia. The first group of rats were killed and their brains were examined the next day. The second group was kept alive until they were about a month old while the third group grew into adulthood.
Researchers tested the month old and adult rats to see how the anaesthesia affected their learning and memory. They also recorded electrical activity in the rats' hippocampus, a brain structure that plays an important role in learning and memory. The rats were tested in several kinds of mazes used to evaluate memory and learning. In all the tests, the rats that had been anaesthetized in infancy performed much worse than rats that had not been subjected to the anaesthesia. The researchers also found that in every rat brain that was examined, moderately severe brain cell death had occurred in several brain regions, including the hippocampus. The researchers also found that in both rats, those one month of age and those in their adulthood, the anaesthesia had caused significant learning and memory problems.