Neonates also experience pain, and its management is necessary to control long-term as well as short-term effects. The most common source of pain in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is medically invasive procedures.
NICU patients may experience trauma, medical adhesive-related skin injuries, heel lance, venipuncture, and intramuscular injection, as well as nasogastric catheterization, besides surgery. Pain is best assessed in such settings using scales such as COMFORT, PIPP-R, NIPS, and N-PASS.
A recent narrative review provides an up-to-date account of neonate pain management used in NICUs worldwide, focusing on non-pharmacological methods. It explains that since Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have well-established adverse side effects and opioids are addictive, it is better to avoid them, at least for mild pain management. Further, it adds that Non-pharmacological interventions, particularly breastfeeding and non-nutritive sucking, should be considered as primary strategies for pain management in neonates. It regards breastfeeding followed by non-nutritive sucking coupled with sucrose sucking as the best non-pharmacological method.
Unfortunately, most parents use only physical methods and thus need training regarding pain management in this population. Further research in NICU is critical as the developmental knowledge changes, and neonate physiology is further uncovered together with its connection to pain.
Koukou Z, Theodoridou A, Taousani E, Antonakou A, Panteris E, Papadopoulou S-S, Skordou A, Sifakis S. Effectiveness of Non-Pharmacological Methods, Such as Breastfeeding, to Mitigate Pain in NICU Infants. Children. 2022; 9(10):1568. https://doi.org/10.3390/children9101568
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