- During their stays in hospitals, premature infants respond
to pain in the same way that adults do, and more should be done to manage
it, say researchers in St. Louis.
- Doctors at Washington University School of Medicine published
their findings in this month's issue of the journal Pediatrics. Premature
infants, they say, can react to pain and tell the difference between more
and less painful procedures. They also react more to pain as they grow
- Because of that, the researchers are urging better pain
management programs for newborns to reduce acute pain, as well as the possible
long-term impact that babies may acquire. "These findings underscore
just how sophisticated newborns are," said Fran Lang Porter, PhD,
an assistant professor of Pediatrics, who was among those who participated.
- "The study shows that not managing their pain, as
if their early experiences don't matter, is a real mistake." 135 premature
newborns ranging in age from less than 28 weeks through full-term were
recruited for the study.
- The findings were no surprise to Porter and her colleagues.
Each newborn's heart rate jumped dramatically in response to the preparation,
as well as the procedure itself, but fell back to normal rate during the
- The newborns also slept less during preparation and the
procedures, and slept more before and afterwards. "I think hospitals
should have guidelines and standards in each of their nurseries and different
units, and they should be monitored for adherence," Dr. Porter tells
- "I think that there should be frank discussions
with parents and families about what pain management will be provided for
their infants and children."