Analgesia and anesthesia for neonates: Study design and ethical issues

Academic Article


  • Objective: The purpose of this article is to summarize the clinical, methodologic, and ethical considerations for researchers interested in designing future trials in neonatal analgesia and anesthesia, hopefully stimulating additional research in this field. Methods: The MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane register databases were searched using subject headings related to infant, newborn, neonate, analgesia, anesthesia, ethics, and study design. Cross-references and personal files were searched manually. Studies reporting original data or review articles related to these topics were assessed and critically evaluated by experts for each topical area. Data on population demographics, study characteristics, and cognitive and behavioral outcomes were abstracted and synthesized in a systematic manner and refined by group members. Data synthesis and results were reviewed by a panel of independent experts and presented to a wider audience including clinicians, scientists, regulatory personnel, and industry representatives at the Newborn Drug Development Initiative workshop. Recommendations were revised after extensive discussions at the workshop and between committee members. Results: Designing clinical trials to investigate novel or currently available approaches for analgesia and anesthesia in neonates requires consideration of salient study designs and ethical issues. Conditions requiring treatment include pain/stress resulting from invasive procedures, surgical operations, inflammatory conditions, and routine neonatal intensive care. Study design considerations must define the inclusion and exclusion criteria, a rationale for stratification, the confounding effects of comorbid conditions, and other clinical factors. Significant ethical issues include the constraints of studying neonates, obtaining informed consent, making risk-benefit assessments, defining compensation or rewards for participation, safety considerations, the use of placebo controls, and the variability among institutional review boards in interpreting federal guidelines on human research. For optimal study design, investigators must formulate well-defined study questions, choose appropriate trial designs, estimate drug efficacy, calculate sample size, determine the duration of the studies, identify pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic parameters, and avoid drug-drug interactions. Specific outcome measures may include scoring on pain assessment scales, various biomarkers and their patterns of response, process outcomes (eg, length of stay, time to extubation), intermediate or long-term outcomes, and safety parameters. Conclusions: Much more research is needed in this field to formulate a scientifically sound, evidence-based, and clinically useful framework for management of anesthesia and analgesia in neonates. Newer study designs and additional ethical dilemmas may be defined with accumulating data in this field. Copyright © 2005 Excerpta Medica, Inc.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Anand KJS; Aranda JV; Berde CB; Buckman S; Capparelli EV; Carlo WA; Hummel P; Lantos J; Johnsto CC; Lehr VT
  • Start Page

  • 814
  • End Page

  • 843
  • Volume

  • 27
  • Issue

  • 6