Dr. Lena Sun

Emanuel M. Papper Professor of Anesthesiology and Professor of Pediatrics

Research Description

There is compelling evidence from pre-clinical studies that exposure of the developing brain to anesthetic/sedative agents can lead to long-lasting effects on learning, memory, and behavior. Recent human studies, including the PANDA study, have shown that a single, relatively short exposure to anesthetic/sedative drugs was not associated with any long-term adverse neurocognitive or behavioral outcomes. However, whether prolonged or repeated exposures to anesthetic/sedative drugs in young children affect their neurodevelopment remain unknown. In 2016, the FDA issued a warning regarding the potential effects of repeated or lengthy use of anesthetic/sedative drugs in a child’s brain development in children younger than three years or in pregnant women during their third trimester. The FDA has also called for “further research to fully characterize how early life anesthetic exposure affects children’s brain development.” Thus, much clinical research is still needed to address the neurodevelopmental effects of anesthetic agents in obstetric and pediatric anesthesia. Additional pre-clinical studies are also needed to define the specific mechanisms of the neurotoxic injury, and identify appropriate strategies for mitigation and/or prevention, informed by results from clinical studies as they become available.



  • Jacquelin Herrera

    Clinical Research Coordinator

Select Publications

You can view a complete list of Dr. Sun's publications here.