Cumulative pain/stress affects the neurobehavioral development of preterm infants in the NICU

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Cumulative pain/stress affects the neurobehavioral development of preterm infants in the NICU

A recent study has revealed that a quick understanding of mechanisms by which alteration in neurodevelopment occur in the early phase of life paves the way for clinicians for developing new targeted neuroprotective strategies and individualized interventions to improve infant developmental outcomes.

Repeated and prolonged pain/stress stimulation is experienced by vulnerable preterm infants during a critical period in their development in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). However, the contribution of cumulative pain/stressors to adapted neurodevelopment remains uncertain. Cong X et al. scrutinized the influence of early life painful/stressful experiences on neurobehavioral outcomes of preterm infants in the NICU.

This was a forthcoming investigational study conducted with 50 preterm infants (28 0/7–32 6/7 weeks’ gestational age) recruited at birth and then followed for four weeks. A cumulative pain/stressors were measured through NICU Infant Stressor Scale on a daily basis and then at 36–37 weeks of post-menstrual age, neurodevelopmental outcomes (NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale) were also examined. Statistical data analysis was conducted depending on the distribution of pain/stressors experienced over time and the linkages among pain/stressors and neurobehavioral outcomes.

The results indicated that preterm infants accomplished a high degree of pain/stressors in the NICU, both in numbers of daily acute events (22.97 ± 2.30 procedures) and cumulative times of chronic/stressful exposure (42.59 ± 15.02 h). It was found that during early life, both acute and chronic pain/stress was experienced by preterm infants which significantly contributed to the neurobehavioral outcomes, particularly in stress/abstinence (p<0.05) and habituation responses (p<0.01). Direct breastfeeding and skin-to-skin holding were also found to be significantly associated with habituation (p<0.01–0.05).


Early Human Development

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The original title of the article:

The impact of cumulative pain/stress on neurobehavioral development of preterm infants in the NICU


Xiaomei Cong et al.

Cumulative pain, stress, neurobehavioral development, preterm infants, NICU
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