Research gives hope that in the future babies won’t have to endure pain whilst in neonatal care

Our Research Fellowship, as part of Professor Rebeccah Slater’s Team at the University of Oxford, aims to ease the pain that babies feel when they are being treated in hospital. 

Right now babies born prematurely have up to 50 painful procedures a day. Shockingly, as recently as 30 years ago, surgical procedures were performed on premature babies without any pain relief. It was believed by many at the time that a baby's nervous system was not mature enough to process pain. Thankfully, it is now widely accepted that babies do experience pain and so pain-relief is now provided during surgery. However, essential medical procedures such as heel-pricks, injections and intubation (inserting a tube into the baby to help breathing or to deliver drugs) are still routinely carried out without pain relief. Understandably, this is not only incredibly distressing for parents but there is evidence to show that it can negatively effect the way the baby’s brain develops as it matures. 

As premature babies do not respond to pain relief in the same way as more mature infants and adults it is vital that research is carried out in this field to ensure that no babies needs to experience pain whilst receiving medical care. 

Our fellowship started in 2016 and was awarded to Dr. Eugene Duff, a scientist who joined Professor Slater’s team and has been pivotal in many advances in their work so far. The most important work they have undertaken was the Poppi Trial, a clinical trial which resulted in changes to NHS policy across the UK last year. 

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