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Assessment of neonatal pain

Kanwaljeet JS Anand, MBBS, DPhil, FAAP, FCCM, FRCPCH
Section Editor
Richard Martin, MD
Deputy Editor
Melanie S Kim, MD


Neonatal discomfort, stress, or pain may be associated with routine patient care (eg, physical examination and diaper changes), moderately invasive care measures (eg, suctioning, phlebotomy, and peripheral intravenous [IV] line placement), or more invasive procedures (eg, chest tube placement and circumcision).

Care providers are expected to prevent any infant from experiencing pain if at all possible. Pain assessment is a necessary part of neonatal pain management, as an indication for initiating therapy, as well as assessing its effectiveness. It is challenging to detect and measure the intensity of pain in neonates because of their inability to communicate with care providers.

The need for effective pain management and the assessment of pain in neonates will be reviewed here. Prevention and treatment of neonatal pain are discussed separately. (See "Prevention and treatment of neonatal pain".)


This topic review uses the following terms as defined by the neonatal pain control group of the Newborn Drug Development Initiative [1]:

Pain – An unpleasant somatic or visceral sensation associated with actual or potential tissue damage

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 12, 2017.
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