Mitchell A, Brooks S, Roane D. The premature infant and painful procedures. Pain Manag Nurs. 2000;1(2):58-65. doi:10.1053/jpmn.2000.7781
Pain management for premature infants raises challenging questions for nurses. This group of infants is often physiologically fragile and they may undergo frequent painful procedures on a daily basis. Contrary to ideas from the past, premature infants are able to feel pain, and nervous system elements required for the transmission of painful stimuli are functional by 24 weeks gestation. Painful procedures are harmful to the infant’s physiological stability and the ability to self-regulate, which includes maintenance of motor control and stable sleep/wake cycles. Assessment of pain in the premature infant is complex. Major indicators of pain include facial grimaces and physiological parameters such as heart rate and oxygen saturation. The Premature Infant Pain Profile (PIPP) is one tool designed specifically for preterm infants. Nonpharmacological nursing measures such as swaddling or nesting and offering a pacifier are useful strategies to help infants cope with painful procedures. The nurse may also maintain a therapeutic environment to assist the infant in self-regulation. Pharmacological agents such as morphine, fentanyl, and acetaminophen are effective in relieving procedural pain. The use of oral sucrose before and during painful procedures offers new possibilities for pain relief. Recent research shows that oral sucrose is a safe and effective analgesic for short-term procedures. Research studies to determine the most effective doses and modes of oral sucrose administration are ongoing. It is thought that the relief of pain is owing to the sweet taste of the sucrose that activates endogenous pain-modulating systems.
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