Fentanyl analgesia in asphyxiated newborns treated with therapeutic hypothermia

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2022 Dec;35(25):7764-7770. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2021.1937106. Epub 2021 Sep 5.


Introduction: Therapeutic hypothermia is the standard care for asphyxiated newborns. Discomfort and pain during treatment are common and may affect therapeutic efficacy of hypothermia. Opioid analgosedation is commonly used in the clinical setting, but its effects in the cooled newborns is poorly investigated.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the safety of fentanyl analgosedation during therapeutic hypothermia, by evaluating severe adverse effects and possible correlation with the neurodevelopmental outcome.

Methods: We analyzed asphyxiated newborns treated with hypothermia receiving fentanyl intravenous infusion (years 2013-2018). Severe neurodevelopmental outcome was defined as cerebral palsy or Griffith's developmental quotient <70 or major sensorineural deficit. Severe brain lesions were defined as cortical or/and basal ganglia extensive involvement.

Results: Fentanyl cumulative dose was variable (61.7 ± 18.5 µg/kg; range 34.3-120.3 µg/kg) among 45 enrolled patients. Respiratory depression was recorded in 13.3% cases of 30 spontaneously breathing patients. Severe brain lesions and severe neurodevelopmental disability were found in 24.4 and 11.1% of all included cases, respectively. Higher cumulative fentanyl dose was not associated with poor outcome.

Conclusions: Fentanyl treatment during therapeutic hypothermia does not negatively affect the neurodevelopmental outcome, thus on the contrary, it may contribute to ameliorate neuroprotection in the asphyxiated cooled newborns.

Keywords: Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy; analgesia; hypothermia; neurodevelopmental outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia*
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum* / complications
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum* / therapy
  • Fentanyl
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia* / therapy
  • Hypothermia, Induced* / adverse effects
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain* / therapy
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases* / etiology
  • Pain / etiology


  • Fentanyl