Use of analgesic and sedative drugs in VLBW infants in German NICUs from 2003-2010

Katrin Mehler*, André Oberthuer, Christoph Haertel, Egbert Herting, Bernd Roth, Wolfgang Goepel

*Corresponding author for this work
17 Citations (Scopus)


Very low birth weight (VLBW) infants frequently receive analgesia and/or sedation for painful procedures and mechanical ventilation to avoid negative stress. Yet, concerns remain regarding potential adverse long-term effects of these drugs on VLBW infants' neurocognitive outcome. Recent studies have shown that less invasive surfactant application (LISA) and early nasal CPAP treatment reduce the need for mechanical ventilation and painful procedures. Therefore, these measures might also reduce the application of analgesic and/or sedative drugs in VLBW infants. To evaluate this hypothesis and to identify potential changes in analgesic treatment concepts in recent years, we retrospectively analyzed data on analgesia and sedation, respiratory support, and the method of surfactant application in VLBW infants enrolled in the German Neonatal Network (GNN) trial between 2003 and 2009 (period 1) and compared it with data from infants participating in GNN in 2010 (period 2). In both periods, about one third of all infants were treated with analgesic and/or sedative drugs using a wide variety of substances. The administration of novel drugs such as propofol, sufentanil, or intravenous paracetamol was higher in 2010 (6.7 vs. 12.2 %). Infants who were treated with CPAP only received significantly less analgesic/sedative medication than infants who were mechanically ventilated (12 vs. 65 %, p = <0.001). Similarly, infants treated with LISA received less analgesic or sedative drugs as compared to infants who received surfactant via endotracheal intubation (36 vs. 63 %, p = 0.001). Conclusion: Although both avoidances of mechanical ventilation and less invasive surfactant application are associated with reduced analgesic or sedative treatment, the percentage of VLBW infants who received analgesia and/or sedation remained unchanged in Germany in recent years.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1633-1639
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 12.2013

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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