Development and Implementation of a Neonatal Pain Management Guideline for Minor Surgeries

Lebanon David, Sharron Forest, Pamela A. Harris-Haman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Although opioids are effective for neonatal postoperative pain management, cumulative opioid exposure may be detrimental. Pain management practices vary among providers, but practice guidelines may promote consistency and decrease opioid use. Purpose: To develop a pain management guideline (PMG) for neonates undergoing minor surgical procedures with the overarching goal of reducing opioid use without compromising the pain experience. The specific aim was for neonatal intensive care unit providers to adhere to the PMG at least 50% of the time. Methods: An interdisciplinary pain and sedation work group in a large level IV neonatal intensive care unit developed an evidence-based PMG for minor surgical procedures. Nurses and providers were educated on the new guideline, and rapid cycle quality improvement methodology provided an opportunity to adjust interventions over 3 months. Results: The PMG was used for 32 neonates following minor surgical procedures: 18 (56%) of the neonates received only acetaminophen and no opioids, 32% required 0.15 mg/kg dose equivalent of morphine or less, and only 9% required more than 0.15 mg/kg dose equivalent of morphine. Overall, opioid use decreased by 88% compared with rates before implementation of the PMG. Providers adhered to the PMG approximately 83.3% of time. Implications for Practice: A PMG is a systematic approach to direct nurses and providers to appropriately assess, prevent, and treat neonatal pain following minor surgery while alleviating opioid overuse. Implications for Research: Future research should focus on determining and mitigating barriers to nurse/provider use of the PMG and developing and implementing a PMG for major surgical procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-399
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Neonatal Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • algorithm
  • clinical practice guideline
  • minor surgery
  • neonatal
  • opioid
  • pain
  • pain management
  • protocol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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