Pain from skin penetrating procedures (procedural pain) during infancy in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may result in changes of nociceptive sensitivity in later life. This supports the need for pain management during such vulnerable periods in life. This study, therefore, analyses the short- and long-term consequences of neonatal paracetamol (acetaminophen) treatment on pain behaviour in an experimental rat model of neonatal procedural pain.Methods:
A repetitive needle-prick model was used, in which neonatal rats received four needle pricks into the left hind paw per day from postnatal day 0 to day 7 (P0–P7). Paracetamol (50 mg/kg/day s.c.) was administered daily (P0–P7), and sensitivity to mechanical stimuli was compared with a needle-prick/saline-treated group and to a tactile control group. At 8 weeks of age, all animals underwent an ipsilateral paw-incision, modelling postoperative pain, and the duration of hypersensitivity was assessed.Results:
Neonatal paracetamol administration had no effect upon short-term mechanical hypersensitivity during the first postnatal week or upon long-term baseline sensitivity from 3 to 8 weeks. However, neonatal paracetamol administration significantly reduced the postoperative mechanical hypersensitivity in young adults, caused by repetitive needle pricking.Conclusion:
Paracetamol administration during neonatal procedural pain does not alter short-term or long-term effects on mechanical sensitivity, but does reduce the duration of increased postoperative mechanical hypersensitivity in a clinically relevant neonatal procedural pain model.