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Neonatal and early childhood outcomes following maternal anesthesia for cesarean section: a population-based cohort study


Background The fetus is vulnerable to maternal drug exposure. We determined associations of exposure to spinal, epidural, or general anesthesia on neonatal and childhood development outcomes during the first 1000 days of life.

Methods Population-based study of all singleton, cesarean livebirths of 24+0 to 43+6 weeks gestation between January 2007 and December 2016 in Scotland, stratified by urgency with follow-up to age 2 years. Models were adjusted for: maternal age, weight, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, smoking, drug-use, induction, parity, previous cesarean or abortion, pre-eclampsia, gestation, birth weight, and sex.

Results 140 866 mothers underwent cesarean section (41.2% (57,971/140,866) elective, 58.8% (82,895/140,866) emergency) with general anesthesia used in 3.2% (1877/57,971) elective and 9.8% (8158/82,895) of emergency cases. In elective cases, general anesthesia versus spinal was associated with: neonatal resuscitation (crude event rate 16.2% vs 1.9% (adjusted RR 8.20, 95% CI 7.20 to 9.33), Apgar <7 at 5 min (4.6% vs 0.4% (adjRR 11.44, 95% CI 8.88 to 14.75)), and neonatal admission (8.6% vs 4.9% (adjRR 1.65, 95% CI 1.40 to 1.94)). Associations were similar in emergencies; resuscitation (32.2% vs 12.3% (adjRR 2.40, 95% CI 2.30 to 2.50)), Apgar <7 (12.6% vs 2.8% (adjRR 3.87, 95% CI 3.56 to 4.20), and admission (31.6% vs 19.9% (adjRR 1.20, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.25). There was a weak association between general anesthesia in emergency cases and having ≥1 concern noted in developmental assessment at 2 years (21.0% vs 16.5% (adjRR 1.08, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.16)).

Conclusions General anesthesia for cesarean section, irrespective of urgency, is associated with neonatal resuscitation, low Apgar, and neonatal unit admission. Associations were strongest in non-urgent cases and at term. Further evaluation of long-term outcomes is warranted.

  • obstetrics
  • regional anesthesia
  • outcome assessment
  • health care

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The data analyzed during this work are not permitted to be made publicly available and will be archived and destroyed in line with eDRIS protocols. We can make available the code used in cleaning the data and deriving the variables on request to ensure reproducibility of the research. As we are not data custodians, we are not permitted to pass the data to third parties under the terms of the access agreement. Any applications to access the data would have to be submitted directly to the data custodian.

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