Chronic pain is poorly addressed in neonatal pain research. We aimed at contributing to define the concept of chronic pain in the newborn.
We designed a Web-based, 3-round Delphi survey. We invited an international panel of experts (health care providers and parents) in the fields of neonatology and neonatal pain to participate.
In the first round, participants (n=189) answered 3 open-ended questions: (1) define chronic pain in your own words, (2) what are the possible causes, and (3) which signs and symptoms are used to diagnose chronic pain? The answers were categorized and summarized into 437 statements, which were valued by the participants (n=189) on a 5-point Likert scale. In the second round, the remaining participants (n=72) were asked to reflect on 65 selected statements with a mode or median ≥4 or mean ≥3.75. These threshold values provided the opportunity to reach consensus in the following round. In the third round, the remaining participants (n=33) were provided with the group and individual responses. This process resulted in 23 statements with mode, mean, and median of ≥4, on which the participants reached consensus.
Although several etiologic factors were defined, no useful diagnostic criterion could be identified. The survey resulted in a description of chronic pain in the newborn. Identifying chronic pain is clinically relevant because it interferes with growth, prolongs hospitalization, leads to altered pain perception, and impairs cognitive and behavioral development.