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Preemies Face Painful Hospital Procedures

Study: Babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units Get Several Painful Procedures Per Day, Often Without Pain Care
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July 1, 2008 -- Newborns in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) often undergo painful and stressful procedures without pain treatment, a new study shows.

The study is based on 430 newborns -- born after 33 weeks of pregnancy, on average -- who spent the first two weeks of their lives at one of 13 NICUs in Paris.

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.

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