pain relief

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Calls For Better Pain Relief Measures For Newborns, Premature Infants

In this file photo, an infant is seen in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. (Paul Joseph Brown/AP)

In this file photo, an infant is seen in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. (Paul Joseph Brown/AP)

What could be more heartbreaking than witnessing some of the smallest, sickest babies undergoing painful medical procedures?

Yet that’s precisely the population subject to some of the most intrusive prodding and pricking, the “greatest number of painful stimuli” in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.

Now the American Association of Pediatricians is calling for better, more comprehensive pain relief measures for newborns, including those born prematurely — both with medications and through alternative, non-drug measures — and for more research on effective treatments.

The AAP’s updated policy statement, published in the journal Pediatrics, asserts that “although there are major gaps in our knowledge regarding the most effective way to prevent and relieve pain in neonates, proven and safe therapies are currently underused for routine minor yet painful procedures.”

The AAP calls for new measures, specifically:

Every health care facility caring for neonates should implement an effective pain-prevention program, which includes strategies for routinely assessing pain, minimizing the number of painful procedures performed, effectively using pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies for the prevention of pain associated with routine minor procedures, and eliminating pain associated with surgery and other major procedures.

If you’ve ever been in a NICU, you may have seen these types of procedures take place: suctioning of various secretions from the nose and throat; blood draws from veins, arteries, feet or heels; IVs being placed; adhesive tape — used to keep all those tubes and IVs in place — removed.

A landmark 2008 study from France found that the vast majority of newborns in the NICU didn’t get pain relief; researchers found only about 21 percent of infants were given either pain medication or non-drug pain relief before undergoing a painful procedure.

Why is this important? Continue reading

Tylenol’s Key Ingredient Under (More) Scrutiny

(Todd Kravos/Flickr)

(Todd Kravos/Flickr)

By Judy Foreman
Guest Contributor

Pain relievers are in the news again — and the news isn’t great.

Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is the focus of a series of scary investigative articles by ProPublica, the online new organization. The bottom line of the series: about 150 people per year die from accidentally taking too much acetaminophen, and even though the line between a therapeutic dose and a dangerous dose is slim, the FDA (and the drug companies that sell the products) have done little to warn consumers.

To be sure, treating pain with any medication is an intrinsically dicey, though often necessary, business. Opioids can reduce pain, though not entirely, and carry the risk of dependence, immune and hormonal changes and, in some cases, abuse and overdose.

In some ways, acetaminophen is the slipperiest of all the pain medications to understand because it’s not just in over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, but in a whopping 600 prescription and OTC products, including cough syrup and in combination pain-relievers such as Vicodin, a mix of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Continue reading