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An Ounce of Prevention: Decreasing Painful Interventions in the NICU

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Despite a proliferation of literature relative to pain physiology, assessment, and treatment, pain management in NICUs remains inconsistent—most often focused on assessment and treatment rather than prevention. The acceptance of pain as an inevitable part of NICU hospitalization is part of the culture in many NICUs. This article is intended to encourage discussion of pain prevention in the NICU, with a goal of creating a new "minimal-pain" NICU culture. The focus of NICU pain management programs should be on decreasing the number of painful events the NICU patient experiences. Areas for consideration include assessing the performance of procedures by novice versus experienced NICU personnel, reevaluating the role of pediatric residents in the treatment of NICU patients, evaluating the use of umbilical lines and peripherally inserted central catheters to reduce the frequency of peripheral punctures, and evaluating the admission process for ways to reduce neonatal pain and stress. This article discusses the physiology of pain in the neonate, identifies adverse outcomes related to repeated pain, and proposes practice changes that can prevent unnecessary pain in neonatal care.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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