Background: Utilization of general anesthesia in children has important policy, economic, and healthcare delivery implications, yet there is little information regarding the epidemiology of these procedures in the United States. Aims: The primary objective of this study was to describe in a geographically defined population the incidence of procedures requiring general anesthesia up to the child's third birthday, and the patient characteristics associated with receiving these procedures. A secondary objective was to determine the proportion of children in the population who meet the risk criteria promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Methods: A retrospective cohort of children born from 1994 to 2007 in Olmsted County, MN was established. Birth certificate information and receipt of general anesthesia before age 3 were collected. Proportional hazard regressions were performed to evaluate the association between characteristics of children and incidence of general anesthesia. Results: Among the 20 922 children in the cohort, 3120 (14.9%) underwent at least 1 general anesthesia before age 3. In multivariate regression, factors independently associated with receiving at least 1 procedure included prematurity, male sex, lower birth weight, cesarean delivery, a non-Hispanic mother, and a White mother, controlling for multiple gestation, number of children previously born, age, education, and marital status of the mother. Seven hundred and twenty-three children (3.5%) had at least 1 subsequent procedure. Estimated gestational age <32 weeks and low birth weight were independently associated with receiving repeated anesthesia. Eight hundred and twenty children (3.9%) had a single prolonged exposure above 3 hours, multiple exposures prior to age 3, or both. Conclusion: Approximately 1 in 7 children were exposed to at least 1 episode of general anesthesia before age 3, and approximately 1 in 4 children who received general anesthesia fall within the high-risk category as defined by the recent FDA warning. The apparent disparities in surgical utilization related to race and ethnicity in this study population deserve further exploration.
- ethnic groups
- gestational age
- low birth weight
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine