Acute pain response in infants: a multidimensional description

Pain. 1986 Mar;24(3):373-382. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(86)90123-5.


Fourteen infants who were undergoing routine immunization were studied from a multidimensional perspective. The measures used were heart rate, crying, body movement/posturing, and voice spectrographs. There was wide variability between infants on the measures, especially on the cry spectrographs, although facial expression was consistent across infants. The pattern that did emerge was characterized by an initial response: a drop in heart rate, a long, high pitched cry followed by a period of apnea, rigidity of the torso and limbs, and a facial expression of pain. This was followed by a sharp increase in heart rate, lower pitched, but dysphonated cries, less body rigidity, but still facial expression was of pain. Finally, in the second half of the minute's response, heart rate remained elevated, cries were lower pitched, more rhythmic, with a rising-falling pattern, and were mostly phonated, and body posturing returned to normal. Those faces that could be viewed also were returning to the at rest configuration. It was suggested that facial expression may be the most consistent across-infant indicator of pain at this point in time.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Crying* / physiology
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Pain* / physiopathology
  • Posture
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Vaccination