In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that repeated or even general use of anesthetic and sedation drugs in pregnant women and toddlers could damage children’s developing brains. The FDA was especially concerned with their use for pregnant women in their third trimester.

However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists rejected the finding, concerned that the warnings could cause patients and providers to reject the use of these drugs, raising some concerns that doctors may not be quick to implement the FDA’s suggestions concerning the risks associated with the use of anesthesia.

The Use of Anesthesia on Pregnant Women

Anesthesia is typically used during labor and delivery, such as the use of a local anesthetic during a cesarean (C-) section delivery. They can be administered via an epidural or by administering directly into the cerebrospinal fluid.

There have always been complications associated with the use of analgesia and anesthesia during labor and delivery, such as the development of hypotension and fetal distress or bradycardia. Because of this, it is crucial that doctors and hospital staff conduct fetal monitoring both before and after anesthesia has been administered. For example, if a necessary C-section is delayed for too long, a baby can be deprived of oxygen and end up with brain injuries.

Aside from labor and delivery, anesthesia is also used in a variety of circumstances on infants and toddlers, who receive regional anesthesia for any surgery or procedure that requires them to be sedated or asleep. These medications are also sometimes used by anesthesiologists to relieve anxiety, minimize pain during and after surgery, relax the muscles, and block out the memory of the surgery or procedures for the child.

The Danger of Anesthesia and Sedation Drugs

The FDA issued a safety advisory in December requiring that drug manufacturers add warning labels on 11 anesthetic and sedation drugs because studies indicated that more than three hours of general anesthetic and sedation in pregnant animals caused widespread loss of nerve cells in their offspring’s brains, also resulting in adverse effects on behavior and overall brain development in their offspring. While single, brief exposures in healthy infants reportedly shouldn’t raise concerns, repeated and prolonged exposures are a cause for concern.

What’s especially interesting about medical rejection of this announcement is that the information is, arguably, not even new: In 2012, a study linked the use of anesthesia before the age of three years old to mental problems later on in life. In this study, even a single dose of anesthesia was linked to harm later in life, such as developing learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Is this just a reality that medical providers are unwilling to recognize?

Anesthesia Error Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as the result of the use of anesthesia, you may be entitled to compensation. At Dana & Dana, our interest is fighting for victims of anesthesia errors. Our office has a history of helping victims of medical malpractice and other acts of medical negligence. Contact us today for a free consultation.