The utility of pain scores obtained during ‘regular reassessment process’ in premature infants in the NICU

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To examine the association of pain assessment scores achieved through regular reassessment practice, as required by the Joint Commission (JC), with painful events and the use of analgesics in premature, ventilated infants.


A cross-sectional study was performed in two tertiary level neonatal intensive care units. Pain was assessed at regular intervals at each center using validated multidimensional instruments in accordance with the JC standards.


Sample comprised 196 ventilated premature infant patient-days. Overall, 2% of scores suggested the presence of pain, and 0.1% of pain scores were associated with analgesia. Ventilated infants who were exposed to multiple pain-associated procedures in a day never demonstrated pain score elevations despite infrequent preemptive or continuous analgesic administration.


Pain assessment scores achieved using regular reassessment processes were poorly correlated with exposure to pain-associated procedures or conditions. Low pain scores achieved through regular reassessment may not correlate to low pain exposure. Resources that are expended on regular reassessment processes may need to be reconsidered in light of the low yield for clinical alterations in care in this setting.

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