Infants Do Experience Pain

In class last week we discussed how doctors just recently found that infants feel pain.  When I heard this, I couldn’t believe it!  To think that all these years infants have been treated as if they didn’t experience pain is so sad.  A recent study of brain scans revealed higher pain levels then were evident through standard tests (such as “changing heart rate, grimacing, flared nostrils and narrowed eyes”.  This study concluded that pain in babies went unnoticed for so many years mainly because “some (babies) show no outward signs of discomfort”.

Recent studies have supported anesthesia as a good way to protect babies from pain during surgery.  In the past, anesthesia was used sparingly on babies due to fear that substances in pain killers negatively effect infants blood pressure.  Since the early 1980’s, deep anesthesia has been available for safe treatment of infants.  Until just recently though, most doctors still opted to only lightly sedate infants, which in most cases is worst than doing nothing.  This leaves the infant unconscious, but still susceptible to pain.  With the recent findings of infants feeling pain, there has been a dramatic shift to deep anesthesia.  “Now that the benefit of pain relief has been so clearly demonstrated,” says Dr. Mark C. Rogers from John Hopkins University, “it is our responsibility (to treat pain in babies) as effectively as we do in other patients.”


Author Bio:
I am Ryan Van Wagenen.  I am originally from Los Angeles, California and I am here at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in Economics with a minor in Psychology.  I interned this past summer in Investment Banking at Citi in New York and I am planning on going back there to work full time upon graduation in May 2010.


~ by Ryan Van Wagenen on September 11, 2009.

3 Responses to “Infants Do Experience Pain”

  1. Ever since instruction in the General Psychology course a few semesters back, I have not been the biggest fan of anesthesia. In contrast to this article, I did some research thought I should also include a study that is currently being performed to address the long term effects of anesthesia on babies. The official results are not released yet, but here is a link to the details of the study if any of you are interested.

    Here is the source:

    Ryan Van Wagenen

  2. I also think that it is sad that pain in infants has gone unnoticed for so long. It will be interesting to see if they can find a balance since both anesthesia and pain can cause harm to a baby.

    Whitney Kerr

    • Very true. I’m sure with time something even more safe will come out. It is amazing to me how relative things like this are. To think in the 1980’s when anesthesia first started being used on babies, people probably thought it was great, when in reality such low doses only made it worse by blocking almost all of the doctors abilities to tell when babies were in pain. I guess we will just have to see in time what comes out next.

      Ryan Van Wagenen

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