Current pain management practices for preterm infants with necrotizing enterocolitis: a European survey
Judith A Ten Barge 1 , Gerbrich E van den Bosch 2 , Naomi J Meesters 2 , Karel Allegaert 3 4 5 , Cristina Arribas 6 , Giacomo Cavallaro 7 , Felipe Garrido 6 , Genny Raffaeli 7 8 , Marijn J Vermeulen 2 , Sinno H P Simons 2 ; ESPR Special Interest Group for Neonatal Pain and the NEC Pain Study Group
Background: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a highly painful intestinal complication in preterm infants that requires adequate pain management to prevent short- and long-term effects of neonatal pain. There is a lack of international guidelines for pain management in NEC patients. Therefore, this study aims to describe current pain management for NEC patients in European neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
Methods: An online survey was designed and conducted to assess current practices in pain management for NEC patients in European NICUs. The survey was distributed via neonatal societies, digital platforms, and professional contacts.
Results: Out of the 259 responding unique European NICUs from 36 countries, 61% had a standard protocol for analgesic therapy, 73% assessed pain during NEC, and 92% treated NEC patients with intravenous analgosedatives. There was strong heterogeneity in the used pain scales and initial analgesic therapy, which mainly included acetaminophen (70%), fentanyl (56%), and/or morphine (49%). A third of NICU representatives considered their pain assessment adequate, and half considered their analgesic therapy adequate for NEC patients.
Conclusions: Various pain scales and analgesics are used to treat NEC patients in European NICUs. Our results provide the first step towards an international guideline to improve pain management for NEC patients.
Impact: This study provides an overview of current pain management practices for infants with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in European neonatal intensive care units. Choice of pain assessment tools, analgosedatives, and dosages vary considerably among NICUs and countries. A third of NICU representatives were satisfied with their current pain assessment practices and half of NICU representatives with their analgesic therapy practices in NEC patients in their NICU. The results of this survey may provide a first step towards developing a European pain management consensus guideline for patients with NEC.