To determine whether analgesic use for painful procedures performed in neonates in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) differs during nights and days and during each of the 6 h period of the day.
Conducted as part of the prospective observational Epidemiology of Painful Procedures in Neonates study which was designed to collect in real time and around-the-clock bedside data on all painful or stressful procedures.
13 NICUs and paediatric intensive care units in the Paris Region, France.
All 430 neonates admitted to the participating units during a 6-week period between September 2005 and January 2006.
During the first 14 days of admission, data were collected on all painful procedures and analgesic therapy. The five most frequent procedures representing 38 012 of all 42 413 (90%) painful procedures were analysed.
Main outcome assessment
We compared the use of specific analgesic for procedures performed during each of the 6 h period of a day: morning (7:00 to 12:59), afternoon, early night and late night and during daytime (morning+afternoon) and night-time (early night+late night).
7724 of 38 012 (20.3%) painful procedures were carried out with a specific analgesic treatment. For morning, afternoon, early night and late night, respectively, the use of analgesic was 25.8%, 18.9%, 18.3% and 18%. The relative reduction of analgesia was 18.3%, p<0.01, between daytime and night-time and 28.8%, p<0.001, between morning and the rest of the day. Parental presence, nurses on 8 h shifts and written protocols for analgesia were associated with a decrease in this difference.
The substantial differences in the use of analgesics around-the-clock may be questioned on quality of care grounds.