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Mayo: Possible link between anesthesia, ADHD

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Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have found an increased incidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder among children exposed to anesthesia more than once before age two.

A study published Thursday in Mayo Clinic Proceedings looked at more than 5,000 children born in the Rochester area in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Children who had more than one medical procedure requiring anesthesia were more likely to develop ADHD.

"It's a fairly significant effect — it more than doubles your chances," said Dr. David Warner, a Mayo anesthesiologist and one of the observational study's authors.

In analyzing the children, the researchers even removed cases in which there were other known factors such as gestational age, sex and birth weight.

But Warner said the findings shouldn't change any decisions about children's medical procedures.

"We don't do optional surgery in these kids. There's certain benefit to having these surgical procedures done," Warner said. "There's perhaps a risk, and I don't think we're anywhere near the point of saying that that risk is well enough defined where you would not have a necessary surgery done."

Warner also said the study doesn't prove that anesthesia exposure causes ADHD. He says more research would be needed to determine that relationship.