Thursday, April 13, 2006

Researcher: Premature Babies Feel Pain

It always amazes me that no one seems to think that what is felt right after birth is not felt before birth... in spite of the fact that the same nerve pathways are involved.... So, no kidding..... read below:

Researcher: Premature Babies Feel Pain

Thu Apr 13, 7:31 PM ET

A researcher at Arkansas Children's Hospital has submitted findings of a study that suggests premature babies can consciously feel pain instead of reacting to it by reflex.

The study, which is to be published in the medical journal Pain, was conducted by Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand, director of the Pain Neurobiology Laboratory at the hospital's Research Institute.

His research looked at the responses of babies to pain by monitoring changes in heart rate, facial expressions and blood pressure through positive and negative stimuli.

Anand said the new findings support his initial theory on neonatal pain, first published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1987.

The accepted theory is that premature babies react to pain through reflex, but do not actually perceive pain beyond their nerve fibers or spinal cord or in the highest sensory center of the brain, he said.

During the study, electrodes were placed over the sensory cortical areas of the brain. Researchers found that, after stroking the babies' hands with alcohol swabs, both sides of the babies' brains were stimulated, shown by increases in blood flow.

Nurses from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit then drew blood from the babies' veins, which resulted in an increase in blood flow to the sensory cortex. That increase suggested the babies felt pain at the highest sensory level of the brain, Anand said.

"This is the first study to report that when a premature baby feels pain, that acute pain activates the sensory cortex, the highest center of pain processing in the brain," Anand said. "These results prove that babies consciously feel pain, rather than simply reacting to it."

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