A number of evidence-based consensus statements relating to pain in infants include recommendations concerning effective pain management during painful procedures. Yet numerous studies have shown that procedural pain remains poorly managed in neonatal intensive care units. The aim of this prospective clinical audit was to ascertain analgesics administered during skin-breaking, minor painful procedures occurring over the entire course of a hospitalization in a cohort of infants with a length of stay of 28 days or more. Data were collected on aspects relating to utilization of oral sucrose specifically for minor painful procedures as well as administration of opioid analgesics or other strong analgesics on the day the procedures were performed. A total of 3605 minor painful procedures were recorded for 55 infants during the study period, a mean of 65 minor procedures per infant. The majority of procedures recorded were heel lance (71%), followed by intravenous catheter insertion or venepuncture (14%). Either oral sucrose was specifically administered or background opioid analgesics were being administered during 85% of all minor painful procedures. These results show considerably higher frequency of analgesic use during acute minor painful procedures compared with similar studies of pain management practices in neonatal intensive care units.
Perspective: This study ascertained analgesics administered to sick infants during minor painful procedures during a prolonged hospitalization. Oral sucrose or morphine was administered during the most painful procedures, whereas 15% of procedures were performed with no analgesics. This illustrates a vast improvement compared with similar studies.