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Keywords:

  • analgesia;
  • infant;
  • newborn;
  • pain;
  • pain measurement

Objective: To identify current pain assessment and procedural pain management practices in neonatal units in Australia.

Methods: Postal survey conducted during December 2003 and January 2004. The survey comprised questions relating to pain assessment scores, pain reduction strategies for minor painful procedures and the use of articulated policies relating to procedural pain management. Participants were the Nurse Unit Managers or their nominees of neonatal intensive care units, special care units and newborn emergency transport services in Australia.

Results: Surveys were sent to 181 eligible organizations, and 105 of these were returned (58%). Six units (6%) used pain assessment scores on a regular basis, and 16 units (15%) had an articulated policy directing pain management practices during painful procedures. Non-nutritive sucking and various nursing comfort measures were the pain reduction strategies most frequently used during minor painful procedures. Twenty-four units (23%) used sucrose or other sweet-tasting solutions during procedures; however, the reported frequency of their usage was low. Breast-feeding during venepuncture, heel lance and intramuscular or subcutaneous injection was infrequently practised and topical anaesthetic agents were rarely used.

Conclusion: This survey demonstrates that the majority of Australian neonatal units have no articulated policy to guide pain management during painful procedures and do not regularly undertake pain assessments. Current evidence-based strategies to reduce procedural pain in hospitalized infants are used infrequently.