About one in every ten newborn babies needs special care for premature birth or other complications and the treatment practices may involve painful or stressful procedures.
© Mitarart fotolia
Sedation may be needed with analgesics, including opioid drugs (such as morphine and fentanyl) which reduce the transmission of pain messages to the brain. However, several studies have shown that, while opioid treatment in newborn babies reduces pain and stress responses, these drugs can also produce undesirable side-effects.
The European Union (EU)-funded NEOOPIOID project (“No pain during infancy by adapting off-patent medicines”) assessed the effectiveness and potential side-effects of such drugs.
The researchers designed a model for morphine and fentanyl dosing in newborn infants, taking into account the developmental stage, and worked on producing new drug formulations for the safe administration of opioids to newborn infants.
The comprehensive NEOOPIOID study used a novel combination of analysis techniques to understand and manage the pain and stress symptoms of infants.
The project team tested different types of opioid drugs and identified recommended doses for newborn infants at different stages of development. National surveys were also conducted in each of the participating countries as well as in eleven other EU member states. The team gathered data on more than 6,000 infant patients.
“The alleviation of pain is a basic and human right regardless of age,” says NEOOPIOID Project Coordinator, Professor Hugo Lagercrantz of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. “By determining the level of pain sensitivity and stress responses, we expect to be able to tailor safer and more effective opioid treatment for newborn infants,” he adds.