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Systematic evaluation of pain in neonates: effect on the number of intravenous analgesics prescribed.

Author(s): Allegaert K, Tibboel D, Naulaers G, Tison D, De Jonge A, Van Dijk M, Vanhole C, Devlieger H

Affiliation(s): Department of Paediatrics, University Hospitals, Herestraat 49, Gasthuisberg, 3000, Leuven, Belgium. karel.allegaert@uz.kuleuven.ac.be

Publication date & source: 2003-06, Eur J Clin Pharmacol., 59(2):87-90. Epub 2003 Apr 4.

Publication type: Clinical Trial

OBJECTIVE: To document the effect of systematic evaluation of pain in neonates on prescription of intravenous analgesics in a level-III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as a marker of increased awareness of treating and preventing pain. METHODS: Retrospective analysis of the number of yearly prescribed vials of intravenous analgesics in a level-III NICU during a period before (1996-1999) and after (2000 to August 2002) introduction of a multidimensional pain scale. Correction was carried out by multiple regression analysis for clinical co-variables (admissions, days on parenteral nutrition, days on respiratory support, surgical procedures), which also might explain changes in prescription of analgesics. Postoperative length (hours) of administration of analgesics was calculated in a group of infants (1996-2001) who all received cryotherapy for threshold retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) before (1996-1999) and since (2000-2001) introduction of pain evaluation. RESULTS: The number of yearly prescribed vials increased from 3140+/-619 (mean+/-SD) to 5915+/-675 ( P<0.005). There is also a significant increase in the number of surgical interventions ( P<0.05) but not in days on respiratory support, days on parenteral nutrition or in number of admissions. After correction for the number of surgical procedures, the increase in prescribed vials remained significant ( P<0.05). In infants who received cryotherapy, a significant increase in length of postoperative analgesia (65-107 h, P<0.01) was documented. Even after correction for the increased postoperative length of ventilation, duration of postoperative analgesia remained significantly ( P<0.05) longer. CONCLUSIONS: Systematic evaluation of pain increased awareness of treating and preventing pain in neonates, even after correction for clinical co-variables. This increase was not associated with an increase in potential side-effects (length of respiratory support, length of parenteral nutrition).

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