Pain threshold, tolerance and intensity in adolescents born very preterm or with low birth weight

Christ-jan J. L. M. van Ganzewinkel*, Jasper V. Been, Inge Verbeek, Tera Boelen van der Loo, Sylvia M. van der Pal, Boris W. Kramer, Peter Andriessen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Data on long-term consequences of neonatal pain is limited.

Aim: To assess whether perinatal factors, later pain experience and pain coping strategies are associated with altered pain threshold, pain tolerance and pain intensity in adolescents born preterm.

Study design: Observational, longitudinal study (Project on Preterm and SGA-infants, POPS-19).

Subjects: We analyzed data of 412 adolescents at the age of 19 years, who were born at a gestational age <32 weeks or with a birth weight <1500 g.

Outcome measures: Participants performed a standardized cold pressor test to assess pain threshold, tolerance and intensity. Furthermore, they completed a pain coping questionnaire (PCQ).

Results: In univariate analysis, female gender and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) were associated with lower pain tolerance, indicated by reaching the ceiling time of 180 sin ice water (females 19% vs males 29%, NEC 7% vs no NEC 25%). Female gender was associated with higher pain intensity (mean difference 0.58; 95%CI 0.21; 0.95) and lower pain threshold (log rank test p 0.007). In a multivariate Cox regression analyses, emotion focused avoidance pain coping style was significantly associated with lower pain threshold (hazard ratio HR 1.38; 95%CI 1.02; 1.87) and pain tolerance (HR 1.72; 95%CI 1.21; 2.42). NEC was significantly associated with lower pain threshold (HR 1.47; 95%CI 1.01; 2.14) and pain tolerance (HR 1.63; 95%CI 1.09; 2.41).

Conclusion: In adolescence, maladaptive pain coping, strategy was associated with lower pain threshold, pain tolerance and higher pain intensity. NEC was associated with altered pain response in adolescents born preterm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalEarly Human Development
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Pain
  • Infant
  • Newborn
  • Pain coping
  • Cold pressor test
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • CARE


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