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Neonates are sensitive to pain and vulnerable to both its short- and long-term effects. However, there is a lack of consistency in both attitudes and practices among NICU staff with regard to pain assessment and management in neonates. Recognition of the clinical importance of neonatal pain and stress has been delayed and hampered by the lack of awareness that newborns are capable of experiencing pain, insufficient knowledge about the developing nervous system, difficulty in assessing neonatal pain, lack of evidence for the safety and efficacy of different modalities available for the treatment of pain, and fears about adverse effects associated with analgesic use.

Neonatal pain has been of minimal concern until the last 25 years. For example, at one time, neonates were given paralytic drugs without anesthesia for major surgical procedures because physicians believed that neonates were incapable of interpreting or...

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