Does pain or tissue damage in early life lead to hyperalgesia persisting into childhood? We performed a cross-sectional study in 164 infants to investigate whether major surgery within the first 3 months of life increases pain sensitivity to subsequent surgery and to elucidate whether subsequent surgery in the same dermatome or in a different dermatome leads to differences in pain sensitivity. All infants received standard intraoperative and postoperative pain management, with rescue analgesia guided by a treatment algorithm. Differences in pain sensitivity during surgery were assessed by the intraoperative fentanyl intake and by (nor)epinephrine plasma concentrations. Differences in postoperative pain sensitivity were assessed by the observational pain measures COMFORT and VAS, and by morphine intake and (nor)epinephrine plasma concentrations. Infants previously operated upon in the same dermatome needed more intraoperative fentanyl, had higher COMFORT and VAS scores, had greater (nor)epinephrine plasma concentrations, and needed also more morphine than did infants with no prior surgery. In contrast, infants who previously underwent surgery in another dermatome had only significant higher postoperative analgesic requirements and norepinephrine plasma concentrations in comparison with infants with no prior surgery. These preliminary differences may indicate the occurrence of spinal and supraspinal changes following neonatal surgery. We conclude that the long-term consequences of surgery in early infancy are greater in areas of prior tissue damage and that these effects may portend limited clinical but important neurobiological differences.

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Department of Anesthesiology

Peters, J., Schouw, R., Anand, K., van Dijk, M., Duivenvoorden, H., & Tibboel, D. (2005). Does neonatal surgery lead to increased pain sensitivity in later childhood?. Pain, 114(3), 444–454. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2005.01.014