Analgesia and sedation during mechanical ventilation in neonates

J. V. Aranda, Waldemar Carlo, Pat Hummel, R. Thomas, Vicki Tutag Lehr, K. J.S. Anand

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91 Scopus citations


Background: Endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation are major components of routine intensive care for very low birth weight newborns and sick full-term newborns. These procedures are associated with physiologic, biochemical, and clinical responses indicating pain and stress in the newborn. Most neonates receive some form of analgesia and sedation during mechanical ventilation, although there are marked variations in clinical practice. Clinical guidelines for pharmacologic analgesia and sedation in newborns based on robust scientific data are lacking, as are measures of clinical efficacy. Objective: This article represents a preliminary attempt to develop a scientific rationale for analgesia sedation in mechanically ventilated newborns based on a systematic analysis of published clinical trials. Methods: The current literature was reviewed with regard to the use of opioids (fentanyl, morphine, diamorphine), sedative-hypnotics (midazolam), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, indomethacin), and acetaminophen in ventilated neonates. Original meta-analyses were conducted that collated the data from randomized clinical comparisons of morphine or fentanyl with placebo, or morphine with fentanyl. Results: The results of randomized trials comparing fentanyl, morphine, or midazolam with placebo, and fentanyl with morphine were inconclusive because of small sample sizes. Meta-analyses of the randomized controlled trials indicated that morphine and fentanyl can reduce behavioral and physiologic measures of pain and stress in mechanically ventilated preterm neonates but may prolong the duration of ventilation or produce other adverse effects. Randomized trials of midazolam compared with placebo reported significant adverse effects (P < 0.05) and no apparent clinical benefit; the findings of a meta-analysis suggest that there are insufficient data to justify use of IV midazolam for sedation in ventilated neonates. Conclusions: Despite ongoing research in this area, huge gaps in our knowledge remain. Well-designed and adequately powered clinical trials are needed to establish the safety, efficacy, and short- and long-term outcomes of analgesia and sedation in the mechanically ventilated newborn.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-899
Number of pages23
JournalClinical Therapeutics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Mechanical ventilation
  • NSAIDs
  • Newborn
  • Opiates
  • Pain


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