Attention to comfort and pain control are essential components of neonatal intensive care. Preterm neonates are uniquely susceptible to pain and agitation, and these exposures have a negative impact on brain development. In preterm neonates, chronic pain and agitation are common adverse effects of mechanical ventilation, and opiates or benzodiazepines are the pharmacologic agents most often used for treatment. Questions remain regarding the efficacy, safety, and neurodevelopmental impact of these therapies. Both preclinical and clinical data suggest troubling adverse drug reactions and the potential for adverse longterm neurodevelopmental impact. The negative impacts of standard pharmacologic agents suggest that alternative agents should be investigated. Dexmedetomidine is a promising alternative therapy that requires further interprofessional and multidisciplinary research in this population.
Keywords: mechanical ventilation; neonate; neurodevelopment; preterm; sedation.