Neonatal Circumcision and Pain Relief: Current Training Practices

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Residency directors of accredited programs were surveyed in two mailings of a forced response and short answer survey (response rate: 680/914, 74%; pediatrics 83%; family practice 72%; obstetrics 71%).


Pediatric residents were less likely than family practice [odds ratio (OR), 0.04; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.02-0.08] or obstetrical (OR, 0.14; 95% CI, 0.08-0.23) residents to be taught circumcision. Training and local custom were rated as important determinants of medical responsibility for neonatal circumcision. Pediatric residents training in programs in which community pediatricians perform circumcisions were more likely to learn circumcision (OR, 39.0; 95% CI, 14.3-110.6) as were obstetric residents (OR, 79.0; 95% CI, 22.4-306.4) training in programs in which community obstetricians perform circumcision. In programs that teach circumcision, pediatric (84%; OR, 3.4; 95% CI, 1.7-7.1) and family practice (80%; OR, 2.7; 95% CI, 1.7-4.2) programs were more likely than obstetric programs (60%) to teach analgesia/anesthesia techniques to relieve procedural pain. Overall, 26% of programs that taught circumcision failed to provide instruction in anesthesia/analgesia for the procedure. Significant regional variations in training in circumcision and analgesia/anesthesia techniques were noted within and across medical specialties.


Residency training standards are not consistent for pediatric, family practice, and obstetrical residents with regard to neonatal circumcision or instruction in analgesia/anesthesia for the procedure. Training with regard to pain relief is clearly inadequate for what remains a common surgical procedure in the United States. Given the overwhelming evidence that neonatal circumcision is painful and the existence of safe and effective anesthesia/analgesia methods, residency training in neonatal circumcision should include instruction in pain relief techniques. Pediatrics 1998;101:423-428.

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