Evaluation and development of potentially better practices to improve pain management of neonates

Pediatrics. 2006 Nov;118 Suppl 2:S78-86. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-0913D.


Objective: Despite increased knowledge, improved options, and regulatory mandates, pain management of neonates remains inadequate, promoted by the ineffective translation of research data into clinical practice. The Neonatal Intensive Care Quality Improvement Collaborative 2002 was created to provide participating NICUs the tools necessary to translate research, related to prevention and treatment of neonatal pain, into practice. The objective for this study was to use proven quality improvement methods to develop a process to improve neonatal pain management collaboratively.

Methods: Twelve members of the Neonatal Intensive Care Quality Improvement Collaborative 2002 formed an exploratory group to improve neonatal pain management. The exploratory group established group and site-specific goals and outcome measures for this project. Group members crafted a list of potentially better practices on the basis of the available literature, encouraged implementation of the potentially better practices at individual sites, developed a database for sharing information, and measured baseline outcomes.

Results: The goal "improve the assessment and management of infants experiencing pain in the NICU" was established. In addition, each site within the group identified local goals for improvement in neonatal pain management. Data from 7 categories of neonates (N = 277) were collected within 48 hours of NICU admission to establish baseline data for clinical practices. Ten potentially better practices were developed for prioritized pain conditions, and 61 potentially better practices were newly implemented at the 12 participating sites. Various methods were used for pain assessment at the participating centers. At baseline, heel sticks were used more frequently than peripheral intravenous insertions or venipunctures, with substantial variability in the number of avoidable procedures between centers. Pain was assessed in only 17% of procedures, and analgesic interventions were performed in 19% of the procedures at baseline.

Conclusions: Collaborative use of quality improvement methods resulted in the creation of self-directed, efficient, and effective processes to improve neonatal pain management. Group establishment of potentially better practices, collective and site-specific goals, and extensive baseline data resulted in accelerated implementation of clinical practices that would not likely occur outside a collaborative setting.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / organization & administration
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / standards*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / methods
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / standards*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid