The babies typically experienced 16 procedures, including 10 painful procedures -- such as having a tube placed in their nose or trachea, or blood drawn -- per day.
The newborns got analgesia -- including pain medication or care that doesn't involve drugs (such as giving the babies a sweet drink, letting them suck on a pacifier, or giving them skin-to-skin contact with their mother) -- only 20% of the time before the painful procedures.
Part of the problem is that the medical staff often had to attempt procedures more than once before succeeding, note the researchers, who included Ricardo Carbajal, MD, PhD, of the Hopital d'enfants Armand Trousseau in Paris.
Carbajal's team makes two recommendations:
Create effective pain-prevention programs for newborns in NICUs.
Find ways to reduce the number of painful and stressful procedures in NICUs.
The findings appear in The Journal of the American Medical Association.