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Newborns in Intensive Care Often Exposed to Pain
Date:7/1/2008

May change pain processing in brain, affect development, researcher says

TUESDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Although tiny babies receiving intensive care must undergo numerous painful interventions, not enough is being done to reduce their discomfort, new research suggests.

Of the 42,413 painful procedures included in this study, only 2 percent of babies received pain medications, and just 18.2 percent received non-pharmacological pain therapy. That means about four out of five babies received no interventions to lessen their pain, according to the study, which was published in the July 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We found that babies are exposed to a lot of painful and stressful procedures, mostly not treated with pain-relieving interventions," said study author Dr. Ricardo Carbajal, a professor of pediatrics and chief of the National Center of Resources to Fight Pain at Children's Hospital Armand Trousseau in Paris.

The authors explain that it's especially important to control pain in neonates -- babies from 1 to 4 weeks old -- because they're more sensitive to pain, and repeated or prolonged exposure may alter the way their brains process pain. It may also affect their long-term development and behavior, Carbajal added.

With funding from two nonprofit foundations -- Fondation CNP and Fondation de France -- Carbajal and his colleagues reviewed data from 430 neonates admitted to hospitals in the Paris area between September 2005 and January 2006.

The average gestational age of the babies was 33 weeks -- a full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks, so these infants were born almost two months early. The average intensive care unit stay was just over eight days, according to the study.

During that time, the 430 infants underwent more than 60,000 first-attempt procedures. Of these, 42,413 were painful, and 18,556 were stressful. The babies also underwent mo
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