A cross-sectional survey of pain and pharmacological analgesia in Canadian neonatal intensive care units

Clin J Pain. 1997 Dec;13(4):308-12. doi: 10.1097/00002508-199712000-00008.


Objective: To determine current practices for the use of analgesia term and preterm neonates cared for in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs).

Design: One-week survey of medical charts of current patients.

Setting: NICUs in Canada.

Participants: A total of 14 of 38 invited NICUs participated. These units were not different on number of beds, admissions per year, or university affiliation from the nonparticipating units.

Main outcome measures: Daily logs were kept of the frequency and type of procedures and analgesia administration for all ill neonates in each NICU during the study period.

Results: The sample consisted of 239 patients. A total of 2,134 invasive procedures were performed. Medication was given specifically 18 times for 17 invasive procedures (0.8%). For another 129 invasive procedures, the patient was receiving analgesia for reasons other than the procedure. Sixteen patients had surgery during the survey period, and another 14 had surgery prior to but within 4 days of the survey. Fifty-one patients received anaesthesia or analgesia specifically related to surgery (39 times), procedures (35 times), or other reasons (34 times), a total of 108 courses. Opioids were the most frequently used medications and were given for all reasons, by continuous infusion, intermittent bolus, or sometimes both methods for the same patient.

Conclusions: Postoperative pain in neonates in Canadian NICUs appears to be consistently treated, primarily with opioid analgesics, but analgesia, opioid or nonopioid is rarely given for nonsurgical invasive procedures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Anesthesia
  • Canada
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Utilization
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Pain / drug therapy*


  • Analgesics