Assessment of pain in the neonates

Statement of the Problem: Pain is a complex phenomenon whose nature is at best elusive in the neonate. Rationalization for inadequate treatment of pain has resulted in unnecessary suffering for these fragile infants. Research has shown that the ”unchecked release of stress hormones by untreated pain may exacerbate injury, prevent wound healing, lead to infection, prolong hospitalization, and even lead to death”. Neonates are more sensitive to pain than are older children and adults, and they are more vulnerable to long-term effects related to pain. Infant pain is often undiagnosed and, in fact, ignored by many health care professional rushing to accomplish specific invasive procedures. Many aspects of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) environment are sources of pain and discomfort for the newborn. Failure to reduce pain in neonates may lead to maladaptive behavior later. Assessment of pain in neonates is often challenging because they cannot verbalize their subjective experience. However, “pain assessment must be designed to conform to the communication capabilities of the suffering person.


Anna Rozensztrauch

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