eLife Podcast

eLife episode

Mon, 18th May 2015

eLife episode 20: Do newborns feel pain?

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In this episode of the eLife podcast we hear about echolocation, bacteriophages, babies and pain, a neural code for food abundance, and how zebrafish can make their own sunscreen.

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As a young Army orderly assigned to the post partum ward at Landstuhl Army hospital tasked with bringing neonates to the doctor and strapping them to the "circ"board to get circumcised (w/o anesthetic) -- either the babies  felt pain or I'm a dutchman. Pecos_Bill, Sat, 23rd May 2015

I bet that line works well at parties!

Seriously, however, how the idea that babies don't feel pain took root in the first place is a mystery to me. Certainly there are brain pathways that are under-developed at birth, but pain is so fundamental to healthy development - through guiding avoidance of damaging insults - that it seems logical that it should be prioritised developmentally.

Thankfully, hospital circumcisions are mostly done these days under local anaesthesia, which can be administered as a cream that carries the anaesthetic agent through the skin; this can be combined with a small injection of local to achieve temporary numbing of the area; the result is a safe and pain-free procedure. chris, Sat, 23rd May 2015

In 1965 medicine was different. The doctor told me that the babe was only crying because he was restrained on the circ board. My feeling then was that this was a fairy story to soothe the MD's conscience. I also think that it would have been a rare and reckless 1965 doc who would have tried an injection into a neonate's penis just to do an elective circumcision.

I later worked in a step-down nursery (from NICU) in the 70's. I wish to God the most painful thing I ever did to a babe was assist in a circumcision. Pecos_Bill, Sat, 23rd May 2015

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