analgesia for infants

Last reviewed 01/2018

Analgesia for infant patients has previously been a much neglected area of overall management. Increased catabolism as a result of the pain response can contribute to post-operative morbidity and mortality. Even premature babies have established physiological mechanisms to respond to insults.

Conversely, the assessment of pain in the infant is highly problematic:

  • variations in heart rate and blood pressure are more variable and can occur to a range of stimuli
  • behavioural responses are reliant on the stage of development and the level of arousal

The compromise is an assessment based on the subjective measures of behaviour, e.g. quality of cry and expression, and the severity of the pain stimulus, e.g. an extrapolation to a similar situation in an older child.