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Babies & Pain

December 10, 2008

If untreated, pain that premature infants feel when undergoing medical procedures could impair their ability to respond to medication later in life.


The permanent effects of pain….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Doctors once operated on newborn babies without anesthesia or pain killers because they believed their nervous systems were too immature to feel pain.

ANNE MURPHY (Georgia State University):
And it turns out that’s absolutely incorrect.

That’s neuroscientist Anne Murphy of Georgia State University. She says if the pain infants endure goes untreated, it impairs their ability to respond to painkillers later in life.

So normally you can give an animal or a child or an adult morphine, and it’ll decrease their pain sensitivity, but these children and animals that have experienced early pain are unable to respond to morphine as adults the way they should.

She says this is one more reason to treat premature babies for pain when they undergo invasive medical procedures. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.