Israeli study links autism to general anesthesia in C-sections

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Ben-Gurion University research says other types of sedation for the surgery, such as epidural, still relatively safe

By TOI STAFF 14 May 2019, 1:27 pm

An Israeli study released Tuesday has found that children born under general anesthesia during Cesarean section births may be at at higher risk of developing autism.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba said they have discovered a link between the use of general anesthesia and the development of autism symptoms.

“We have known for many years that children born via ‘C-section’ are at higher risk of autism, but we weren’t able to quantify exactly why,” Dr. Idan Menashe, of BGU’s Department of Public Health and the Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, said in a press release.

While highlighting the potential association between C-sections under general anesthesia anesthetic and autism, the study suggested that “C-sections performed with other types of anesthesia such as epidural or spinal sedation are relatively safe,” said Menashe, who is also the scientific director of the National Autism Research Center at BGU.

Illustrative – Caesarean section under general anesthetic. (Sweetlemontea, Getty Images)

The study compared the birth records of 350 children diagnosed with autism and 2,000 control births, finding that children whose mothers gave birth by C-section under general anesthesia had increased risk of autism, while those performed with other types of anesthesia did not.

Researchers also found that the reason for the C-section surgery, either by choice or because of pregnancy complications, did not influence the outcome.

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