Background and rationale

The alleviation of pain is a basic and human right regardless of age. Neonates do feel pain and it has been shown that preterm infants are even more vulnerable to pain than older infants. The more vulnerable preterm neonates are precisely those that are more exposed to pain. Neonates admitted to intensive care units, both neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), undergo dozens or even hundreds of painful procedures during their stay. These painful procedures include, for many of the ICU neonates, a tracheal intubation followed by mechanical ventilation. The pain and stress that are induced by mechanical ventilation as well as by repetitive procedures or painful diseases has led medical staff to use sedation and analgesia in neonates admitted to intensive care units. The subjectivity and difficulty inherent to pain measurement in neonates have probably contributed to a wide variety of neonatal sedation and analgesia practices. To date, these practices have been rarely studied.