Premature Babies More Sensitive to Pain: Study
Premature babies would benefit from better pain relief while in intensive care, report researchers who say invasive hospital procedures make preemies pain-sensitive.
Injections, blood tests, tube feeding and other treatments make preterm babies feel pain more acutely than healthy newborns, says a team from University College London, BBC News reported.
“Our study shows that being born prematurely and undergoing intensive care affects pain processing in the infant brain,” said Dr. Rebeccah Slater, lead researcher. “Our ability to measure brain responses to painful events will lead to a better and more informed approach to the administration of analgesia, and enable us to define optimal ways of providing pain relief in this vulnerable population.”
For the study, the newborns’ brain activity was measured with an electroencephalogram (EEG) while they underwent routine heel pricking to obtain blood samples.
The brain activity of preemies hospitalized for 40 days or more was stronger than that of healthy babies of the same age. This indicates that the premature babies are bothered more by pain, the researchers said.
However, the babies are not more sensitive to touch and can benefit from being held or cuddled, the authors said, according to BBC News.
The findings are published in the journal NeuroImage.