Infant pain management: a developmental neurobiological approach

Nat Clin Pract Neurol. 2009 Jan;5(1):35-50. doi: 10.1038/ncpneuro0984.


Infant pain is a clinical reality. Effective pain management in infants requires a specialist approach--analgesic protocols that have been designed for older children cannot simply be scaled down for CNS pain pathways and analgesic targets that are in a state of developmental transition. Here, we discuss the particular challenges that are presented by an immature CNS for the detection and treatment of pain. We show how the application of neurophysiological and neuropharmacological approaches can help to overcome the problems inherent in measuring and treating pain in infants, and how research data in these areas can be used to devise age-appropriate methods of assessing pain as well as strategies for pain relief. The evidence that untreated pain in infancy results in long-term adverse consequences is presented, thereby emphasizing the need for a longer term view of infant pain management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant*
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement / methods