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Regulators in the US will require new warnings be added to the labels of certain anesthetic and sedation drugs, the Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday, indicating that use of the drugs could possibly harm young children’s brains.

The warnings will apply to children under 3 and to pregnant women during their third trimester, and pertain to procedures that last longer than three hours or to repeated exposure to the drugs. A single short exposure to general anesthesia has not been found to have negative brain effects for children.


However, some research has found an association between greater exposure to the drugs before age 3 and problems with learning and behavior, including an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The studies were observational and did not establish a causative effect between the drugs and the developmental issues.

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