Pain-Related Reactions among Premature Infants with Gestational Age Less than 26 Weeks: An Observational Cohort Study

Kiriakos Martakis*, Christoph Huenseler, Kruthika Thangavelu, Angela Kribs, Bernhard Roth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: There is insufficient information regarding acute pain reactions among premature infants with a gestational age of less than 26 weeks and no appropriate scale for pain measurement in this age group. We hypothesized that these infants present specific reactions to a standardized pain stimulus within the first 3 days of life. Methodology: Mixed-methods, prospective, open-label, single-arm, observational study. Routine capillary or peripheral blood takes were filmed. The model consisting of a baseline, a preparatory, an interventional and a return-to-baseline phase was filmed. After a pilot evaluation, experienced medical and nursing neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) staff analysed the videos. Results: Twenty infants with gestational ages ranging from 22 weeks and 3 days to 26 weeks (mean 24 weeks) were recruited. Nineteen infants showed pain reactions, with a mean latency of 8.3 s (range 2-30). The majority presented eye movements, changes of the breath pattern and a slight increase in the mean SpO(2) value. A high degree of interrater and intrarater reliability was found. Discussion: Premature infants with a gestational age of up to 26 weeks can present a variety of discrete reactions as response to a pain stimulus within the first 72 h of life. Experienced NICU staff can perform a valid and reliable evaluation of these reactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-266
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Premature infant
  • Pain response
  • Pain measurement
  • Oxygen saturation
  • Neurological outcome
  • Neurodevelopment

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