Study Finds Very Low Risk of Anesthesia-Related Death in Healthy Children
As reported in the June issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, a study at an Australian children's hospital indicates that there is little or no risk of death associated with anesthesia in healthy kids. The research did document 10 anesthesia-related deaths out of almost 102,000 anesthesia procedures in pediatric patients, all of the deceased children had prior heart disease or other serious medical conditions. The researchers, led by Dr. Benjamin F. van der Griend of Cristchurch Hospital in New Zealand, analyzed 101,885 anesthesia procedures in 56,000 children undergoing surgery at the Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, from 2003 to 2008. All deaths occurring within 24 hours and 30 days following anesthesia were identified and judged by experts as to whether morbidity was related to the anesthesia in any way. Within 24 hours, the overall death rate from any cause was 13.4 per 10,000 anesthesia procedures. At 30 days, the rate of death was 34.5 per 10,000 procedures. The risk increased with infants under one month old and among babies and children undergoing heart surgery. Only 10 deaths were reported to be somehow related to the anesthesia—a rate of just under 1 out of 10,000 anesthesia procedures. "In all 10 cases, preexisting medical conditions were identified as being a significant factor in the patient's death," according to the authors. Half of the deaths occurred in kids with pulmonary hypertension. The study indicated that, for healthy children, the risk of anesthesia-related death should be very low. Now, the researchers are challenging whether it is even appropriate to list death as a possible risk of anesthesia for children without any medical problems.
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