It was widely assumed that infants felt no pain and they routinely underwent major surgeries without anesthesia up until infant pain was formally recognized in 1987.

Discovering Pain in Newborn Infants

Randomised Trial of Fentanyl Anesthesia in Preterm Babies Undergoing Surgery: Effects on the Stress Response. By Anand KJ, Sippell WG, and Aynsley-Green A. Lancet 1987; 1:243–8. Reprinted with permission.

In a randomised controlled trial, preterm babies undergoing ligation of a patent ductus arteriosus were given nitrous oxide and d-tubocurarine, with (n = 8) or without (n = 8) the addition of fentanyl (10 μg/kg intravenously) to the anesthetic regimen. Major hormonal responses to surgery, as indicated by changes in plasma adrenaline, noradrenaline, glucagon, aldosterone, corticosterone, 11-deoxycorticosterone, and 11-deoxycortisol levels, in the insulin/glucagon molar ratio, and in blood glucose, lactate, and pyruvate concentrations we… Continue Reading (1 minute read)

9 thoughts on “It was widely assumed that infants felt no pain and they routinely underwent major surgeries without anesthesia up until infant pain was formally recognized in 1987.”

  1. aethra7

    Since a lot of people are asking if they didn’t notice the babies crying or if they tied them down:
    > surgery was often performed on paralyzed, unanesthetized infants

    The surgeons would introduce an agent that caused temporary muscle paralysis, this is used in regular surgeries as well to prevent sedated patients from twitching or sleepwalking.

  2. devasohouse

    Were the infants just screaming bloody murder the whole time? That sounds insanely had to focus, especially if performing a major surgery.

  3. heckthestate

    A dentist pulled some of my little brothers teeth out with no anesthesia. When my parents were justifiably upset, the dentist told them “toddlers don’t feel pain”… despite my brother screaming bloody murder.

    This was after 1987, so I wonder how many medical professionals are still out there that believe this.

  4. Akraya

    I believe they were given paralytics during surgery so they wouldn’t move around, it’s horrible to imagine.

  5. celticqueenboudica

    Same with people with mentally handicapped people. People with Downs syndrome, for example. Barbaric!

  6. QualitySeycoTimepiec

    You would think when it comes to people who can’t communicate the rule would be to assume pain until the lack is proven.

  7. ImAOneTrackLover

    And a lot of people still treat animals like they don’t feel pain (particularly in the animal farming industry). It sucks.

  8. Emmalema_dingdong

    How stupid of them. You don’t need any scientific equipment to see that babies feel pain. Pinch one, and it crys. All the experimentation needed.

  9. Sc0d0g

    My son, born in 1984 was circumcised shortly after birth. He was given back to us in such a state of shock that my wife and I swore it off for any future boys and would lobby against it at every opportunity. We’re not pushy and tend to mind our own business but if asked, we never held back. My son asked what I thought about circumcising my newborn Grandson. I told my son his own story. My Grandson is intact.

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