Pain and compassion in the neonatal unit -- a neonatologist's view.

: Research has shown that even extremely premature babies are sufficiently developed, anatomically and physiologically, to be capable of experiencing and responding to pain. All newborn infants and especially those who require intensive care in the first days of life are exposed to some painful procedures. Part of the neonatologist's role is the detection and management of pain in these infants. Difficult challenges come with this role. All medications carry known or potential adverse effects and limited research has been done in this vulnerable population. The benefits and risks of all available pain-relieving measures should be balanced when planning management. Compassion is no excuse for a high incidence of undesirable or dangerous side effects. We must proceed with great care.