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Children experience pain to at least the same level as adults. Multiple studies have shown that neonates and infants perceive pain and have memory of these painful experiences. Frequently, children are underprescribed and underdosed for opioid and nonopioid analgesics due to excessive concerns of respiratory depression and/or poor understanding of the need for pain medications in children. Few data are available to guide the dosing of many pain medications and the majority of pain medications available on the market today are unlabeled for use in pediatric patients.

Taddio  A, Katz  J: The effects of early pain experience in neonates on pain responses in infancy and childhood. Pediatr Drugs 2005;7:245–257
[PubMed: 16118561] .


Standardizing pain measurements require the use of appropriate pain scales. At most institutions, pain scales are stratified by age (Table 32–1) and are used throughout the institution from operating room to medical floor to clinic, creating a common language around a patient’s pain. Pain assessment by scales has become the “5th vital sign” in hospital settings and is documented at least as frequently as heart rate and blood pressure at many pediatric centers around the world. There are many pain scales available, all of which have advantages and disadvantages (eg, Figures 32–1 and 32–2, and Table 32–2). It is less important what type of scale is used, but that they are used on a consistent basis.

Table 32–1.Pain scales—description and age-appropriate use.
Table 32–2.FLACC pain assessment tool.

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