While effects of general anesthesia on neuronal activity in the human neonatal brain are incompletely understood, electroencephalography (EEG) provides some insight and may identify age-dependent differences. A systematic search (MEDLINE, Embase, PUBMED, Cochrane Library to November 2023) retrieved English language publications reporting EEG during general anesthesia for cardiac or non-cardiac surgery in term neonates (37 to 44 weeks post-menstrual age). Data were extracted and risk of bias (ROBINS-I Cochrane tool) and quality of evidence (GRADE checklist) assessed. From 1155 abstracts, nine publications (157 neonates; 55.7% male) fulfilled eligibility criteria. Data were limited and study quality was very low. The occurrence of discontinuity, a characteristic pattern of alternating higher and lower amplitude EEG segments, was reported with general anesthesia (94 of 119 neonates, six publications) and with hypothermia (23 of 23 neonates, two publications). Decreased power in the delta (0.5-4Hz) frequency range was also reported with increasing anesthetic dose (39 neonates; three publications). While evidence gaps were identified, both increasing sevoflurane concentration and decreasing temperature are associated with increasing discontinuity.

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Competing Interests

Conflicts of interest: SJC is the founder and CEO of pre-revenue medical device company developing a novel paediatric EEG sensor, for which they are the inventor.

There are no other competing interests to declare.

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