Individual contextual factors like gestational age (GA) or previous painful experiences have an influence on neonates' pain responses and may lead to inaccurate pain assessment when not appropriately considered.
We set out to determine the influence of individual contextual factors on variability in pain response in neonates, measured with the modified Bernese Pain Scale for Neonates (BPSN), and, if necessary, to incorporate relevant individual factors into a revised version of the BPSN.
We videotaped 154 full-term and preterm neonates of different GAs during 1-5 capillary heel sticks in their first 14 days of life. For each heel stick we produced three video sequences: baseline, heel stick, and recovery. The randomized sequences were rated on the BPSN by five blinded nurses. Individual contextual factors were retrospectively extracted from patient charts and from the video recordings. We analysed the data in single and multiple linear mixed models.
Premature birth (b = -0.721), caffeine (b = -0.302), and the behavioural states quiet and awake (b = -0.283), active and asleep (b = -0.158), and quiet and asleep (b = -0.498) were associated with changes in behavioural pain scores. Premature birth (b = -0.232), mechanical ventilation (b = -0.196), and duration of the heel stick procedure (b = 0.0004) were associated with changes in physiological pain scores. Premature birth (b = -0.907), Caffeine (b = -0.402), the behavioural states quiet and awake (b = -0.274), and quiet and asleep (b = -0.459), and duration of the heel stick procedure (b = 0.001) were associated with changes in the modified BPSN total scores.
Postmenstrual age, behavioural state, caffeine and ventilation status have an influence on neonates' pain response and should be incorporated in the revised BPSN to enhance clinical pain assessment in neonates with different GAs.