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Pain. 2009 May;143(1-2):138-46. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2009.02.014.

Neonatal pain, parenting stress and interaction, in relation to cognitive and motor development at 8 and 18 months in preterm infants.

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Centre for Community Child Health Research, Child and Family Research Institute, Room F605B, 4480 Oak St., Vancouver, BC, Canada V6H 3V4.


Procedural pain in the neonatal intensive care unit triggers a cascade of physiological, behavioral and hormonal disruptions which may contribute to altered neurodevelopment in infants born very preterm, who undergo prolonged hospitalization at a time of physiological immaturity and rapid brain development. The aim of this study was to examine relationships between cumulative procedural pain (number of skin-breaking procedures from birth to term, adjusted for early illness severity and overall intravenous morphine exposure), and later cognitive, motor abilities and behavior in very preterm infants at 8 and 18 months corrected chronological age (CCA), and further, to evaluate the extent to which parenting factors modulate these relationships over time. Participants were N=211 infants (n=137 born preterm 32 weeks gestational age [GA] and n=74 full-term controls) followed prospectively since birth. Infants with significant neonatal brain injury (periventricular leucomalacia, grade 3 or 4 intraventricular hemorrhage) and/or major sensori-neural impairments, were excluded. Poorer cognition and motor function were associated with higher number of skin-breaking procedures, independent of early illness severity, overall intravenous morphine, and exposure to postnatal steroids. The number of skin-breaking procedures as a marker of neonatal pain was closely related to days on mechanical ventilation. In general, greater overall exposure to intravenous morphine was associated with poorer motor development at 8 months, but not at 18 months CCA, however, specific protocols for morphine administration were not evaluated. Lower parenting stress modulated effects of neonatal pain, only on cognitive outcome at 18 months.

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