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Calls For Better Pain Relief Measures For Newborns, Premature Infants

In this file photo, an infant is seen in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. (Paul Joseph Brown/AP)

In this file photo, an infant is seen in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. (Paul Joseph Brown/AP)

What could be more heartbreaking than witnessing some of the smallest, sickest babies undergoing painful medical procedures?

Yet that’s precisely the population subject to some of the most intrusive prodding and pricking, the “greatest number of painful stimuli” in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.

Now the American Association of Pediatricians is calling for better, more comprehensive pain relief measures for newborns, including those born prematurely — both with medications and through alternative, non-drug measures — and for more research on effective treatments.

The AAP’s updated policy statement, published in the journal Pediatrics, asserts that “although there are major gaps in our knowledge regarding the most effective way to prevent and relieve pain in neonates, proven and safe therapies are currently underused for routine minor yet painful procedures.”

The AAP calls for new measures, specifically:

Every health care facility caring for neonates should implement an effective pain-prevention program, which includes strategies for routinely assessing pain, minimizing the number of painful procedures performed, effectively using pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies for the prevention of pain associated with routine minor procedures, and eliminating pain associated with surgery and other major procedures.

If you’ve ever been in a NICU, you may have seen these types of procedures take place: suctioning of various secretions from the nose and throat; blood draws from veins, arteries, feet or heels; IVs being placed; adhesive tape — used to keep all those tubes and IVs in place — removed.

A landmark 2008 study from France found that the vast majority of newborns in the NICU didn’t get pain relief; researchers found only about 21 percent of infants were given either pain medication or non-drug pain relief before undergoing a painful procedure.

Why is this important? Continue reading

Painless, Quick-Release Medical Tape Reduces Infant Skin Injuries

Pain-free bandages? I’ll take ’em.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT report today that they’ve invented a quick-release medical tape that will minimize injuries for delicately-skinned newborns.

Here’s the Brigham news release:

Commercial medical tapes on the market today are great at keeping medical devices attached to the skin, but often can do damage—such as skin tissue tearing—once it’s time to remove them.

A research team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital has invented a quick-release tape that has the strong adhesion properties of commercial medical tape, but without the ouch factor upon removal.

The team was led by Jeffrey Karp, PhD, BWH Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, senior study author in collaboration with The Institute for Pediatric Innovation which defined the need and requirements for a new neonatal adhesive based on national surveys of neonatal clinicians.

The study detailing the tape design will be electronically published on October 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was conducted in collaboration with Robert Langer, PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The tape which achieves strong adhesion when securing medical devices to skin, but could also easily peel off safely, utilizes a three-layer design approach that sets a new paradigm for quick-release medical tapes. Continue reading