Development of a New Pain Assessment Instrument
Pain in extremely low gestational age (ELGA) infants remains under-assessed and poorly managed despite the fact that pain may have profound consequences with regard to infants' neuro-development (Als, 1982). Pain prevention is a critical goal of pain assessment, yet barriers exist. Most critical is the lack of valid, reliable, and clinically useful pain tools. This observational descriptive study focused on the development of a gestational age appropriate instrument for 24-29 6/7 week infants and evaluation of the new instrument, Pain Assessment and Care for the Extremely Low Gestational Age Infant Focused Instrument (PACEFI). Additionally, differences in behavioral cues and physiologic indicators were evaluated for ELGA infants and very low gestational age (VLGA) infants for non-invasive and invasive procedures. Nurse raters used the PACEFI to rate these infants during both procedures at baseline, during, and recovery to assess variation in expected pain. The PACEFI demonstrated a high internal consistency (.879) and appeared to be contributing to the measurement of pain. A RANOVA found a significant difference in rating scores ( p < .001) for both procedures. Baseline and recovery scores were lower than during scores. ELGA infants demonstrated a dampened response (p < .023) as compared to the VLGA infants during the invasive procedure. Alternatively, ELGA infants demonstrated a more vigorous response for non-invasive procedure and dropped below baseline scores at recovery. The whole care experience during the non-invasive procedure may have led to sensitization for the VLGA infant and overwhelming energy expenditure for the ELGA infant. Furthermore, physiologic indicators and behavioral cues were inconsistent arguing for independent assessment of these parameters. Knowledge gained from this study: 1) provides information regarding gestational age differences in pain behaviors; and (2) clarifies if the measurement of these behaviors addresses the immediate need for pain assessment for this vulnerable population.