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Cueing Into Infant Pain

Byers, Jacqueline Fowler PhD, RN, CNAA; Thornley, Kristen MSN, ARNP

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: March-April 2004 - Volume 29 - Issue 2 - p 84-89
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Unfortunately the history of pain management in infant care has included decades of inadequate analgesia for a wide range of medical procedures, including major surgery. This was justified in part on fear of drug and analgesic risks to the infant, as well as the commonly held belief that infants do not respond to, or remember, painful experiences. Today we understand that infant pain is encoded into observable manifestations through which an infant communicates behavioral and physiological changes such as altered vital signs, characteristic cries, and facial expressions. The purposes of this article are to (1) describe infants' physiological and behavioral responses to pain and its adverse effects, (2) review pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic infant pain management modalities and reliable pain assessment tools for use in clinical practice, and (3) educate healthcare professionals about the importance of assessment and management of infant pain.

The fact is that newborns and infants feel pain, and it is our obligation to assess for it and provide relief. Read this review of what is known about assessment for newborn pain and pain assessment tools.

Jacqueline Fowler Byers is an Associate Professor, University of Central Florida. She can be reached c/o School of Nursing, P.O. Box 162210, Orlando, FL 32816-2210 (

Kristen Thornley was a University of Central Florida Graduate Student at the time article was written. She is currently a Family Nurse Practitioner, St. Joseph's Specialty Pediatric Clinic, Tampa, FL.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.