Are anesthetics and sedatives safe for infants and children under age 4? That question keeps popping up. Now a partnership between an international anesthesia group and the FDA has called for more research.

SmartTots, a public-private collaboration between the International Anesthesia Research Society and the FDA, has updated a consensus statement that emphasizes more research is needed on this issue. The statement was endorsed by 19 health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, and the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia.

Recent evidence seems to indicate that when very young animals are exposed to anesthetics or sedatives, it impairs their ability to learn and memorize, as well as impacts their behavior. Could those finding translate to young children? That’s what the organizations want to know. Thus far, human research has been inconclusive.

“We want to ensure that children under the age of four who have serious or life-threatening medical conditions receive the safest medications possible,” said Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The updated consensus statement is an important moment in our journey to identify any potential harm and, if necessary, find suitable solutions for these young children.”

For more on this topic, see our upcoming December issue of Same-Day Surgery. That issue also will include a roundup of coverage from the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ meeting being held Oct. 24-28.

For more information on anesthesia issues and children, see “Anesthesia staff key to identifying children at risk for sleep-disordered breathing prior to surgery” from our October Same-Day Surgery.