Painful procedures and analgesia in the NICU: what has changed in the medical perception and practice in a ten-year period?
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To compare the use of analgesia versus neonatologists' perception regarding analgesic use in painful procedures in the years 2001, 2006, and 2011. This was a prospective cohort study of all newborns admitted to four university neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) during one month in 2001, 2006, and 2011. The frequency of analgesic prescription for painful procedures was evaluated. Of the 202 neonatologists, 188 answered a questionnaire giving their opinion on the intensity of pain during lumbar puncture (LP), tracheal intubation, mechanical ventilation (MV), and postoperative period (PO) using a 10-cm visual analogic scale (VAS; pain >3cm). For LP, 12% (2001), 43% (2006), and 36% (2011) were performed using analgesia. Among the neonatologists, 40-50% reported VAS >3 for LP in all study periods. For intubation, 30% received analgesia in the study periods, and 35% (2001), 55% (2006), and 73% (2011) of the neonatologists reported VAS >3 and would prescribe analgesia for this procedure. As for MV, 45% (2001), 64% (2006), and 48% (2011) of patient-days were under analgesia; 56% (2001), 57% (2006), and 26% (2011) of neonatologists reported VAS >3 and said they would use analgesia during MV. For the first three PO days, 37% (2001), 78% (2006), and 89% (2011) of the patients received analgesia and more than 90% of neonatologists reported VAS >3 for major surgeries. Despite an increase in the medical perception of neonatal pain and in analgesic use during painful procedures, the gap between clinical practice and neonatologist perception of analgesia need did not change during the ten-year period.