Pain in preterm infants

Dr. Ruth Grunau is a world expert on the measurement and long-term consequences of pain in newborns and premature infants in neonatal intensive care units. From the late 1980s, when she conducted landmark research on measures for assessing pain in infants, she has continuously added to the body of research concerning how early pain experiences in very low birthweight infants may affect their clinical and developmental outcomes. Dr. Grunau is conducting several studies on pain and stress in fragile premature infants whose medical care involves repeated exposure to invasive procedures. She is studying how to distinguish pain from stress in very premature infants, and how pain, sedation and analgesia may affect their neurobehavioural development. She is investigating the effects of repetitive pain on attention, behavioural organization and development in very premature infants and toddlers. Finally, she is studying whether positive maternal interaction may moderate the potentially negative effects of neonatal intensive care unit experiences. By learning the most effective ways to minimize any detrimental consequences caused by early repetitive pain and stress, Dr. Grunau’s goal is to help clinicians improve the short- and long-term outcomes of very premature infants.