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    Researchers Prove Long-term Effects of Morphine Treatment in Infants

    By Jennifer Huddleston, staff writer     

    A recent study by researchers at Georgia State University (GSU) has debunked the myth that pain experienced in infancy does not have long-term negative consequences.

    The study, led by Anne Z. Murphy, Ph.D., a GSU professor of neuroscience and member of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, and graduate student Jamie LaPrairie, found that infant rodents that were not given preventative morphine prior to procedures were less sensitive to morphine in adulthood. This means that infants who undergo painful procedures at birth without receiving pain medication will require more morphine in adulthood to manage their pain.
    [1]

    “These results suggest that there are long-term benefits of providing all newborns with some sort of pain-relieving medicine prior to the initiation of an invasive procedure,” Murphy said.
    [2]

    In the study, researchers administered an injection of morphine sulfate to one group of rat pups on their day of birth before inducing inflammation. A second group of rat pups was given a saline injection. Over the course of 60 days the two groups underwent identical procedures.
    [3]

    Researchers found that the rodents given preventative morphine exhibited normal behavior while those given saline demonstrated resistance to the effects of morphine in adulthood and increased sensitivity to pain.
    [4]

    The study’s findings are the first of their kind to confirm that administering preemptive morphine prior to a painful procedure in infancy bars long-term negative effects of pain in adult rodents.
    [5]

    This research, combined with previous studies, dispels false beliefs regarding pain in infants and young children, including the myths that these children cannot feel pain or remember painful events and that pain does not affect immediate or future development.
    [6]

    Rather, this new study confirms beliefs that babies who are not given effective pain relief may respond differently to pain later in life or have long-term developmental problems.
    [7] Some experts maintain that untreated pain in infants can lead to the formation of abnormal pathways in the brain, which may result in impaired social and cognitive skills. [8]

    The findings of the study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and the GSU Brains and Behavior Program, are published online in Pediatric Research.
    [9]


    [1] Georgia State University. “Long-term Benefits of Morphine Treatment in Infants Confirmed in Rodent Study.” ScienceDaily. Nov. 3, 2008.
    [2]  Ibid.
    [3] “Boffins Confirm Long-term Benefits of Morphine Treatment in Infants.” AndraNews.net. Nov. 4, 2008.
    [4] Georgia State University. “Long-term Benefits of Morphine Treatment in Infants Confirmed in Rodent Study.” ScienceDaily. Nov. 3, 2008.
    [5]  Ibid.
    [6] “Pain: Long-term Effects.” AboutKidsHealth. June 20, 2005.
    [7]  Ibid.
    [8] Murray, Eileen. “Pain in Newborns.” PowerPoint. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2008.
    [9] Georgia State University. “Long-term Benefits of Morphine Treatment in Infants Confirmed in Rodent Study.” ScienceDaily. Nov. 3, 2008.



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