Long-term effects of pain in infants

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1999 Aug;20(4):253-61. doi: 10.1097/00004703-199908000-00008.


Pain and stress have been shown to induce significant physiological and behavioral reactions in newborn infants, even in those born prematurely. Infants who are born prematurely or seriously ill are commonly exposed to multiple painful and stressful events as part of their prolonged hospitalizations and required medical procedures. There is now evidence that these early events not only induce acute changes, but that permanent structural and functional changes may also result. This article reviews the growing body of evidence of likely long-term effects of early pain and stress on the human infant. It is hoped that a better understanding of this literature will promote more responsive and sensitive management of infants and young children during their encounters with the medical community and will ultimately facilitate the healthy growth and development of all children.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*