Several studies reported that preterm infants were found to be hypersensitive to pain. However, longitudinal and quantitative assessments of subsequent pain thresholds in adolescence are scarce.
To assess the tenderness threshold in adolescents born prematurely compared with matched children born at full term.
Children in the community recruited from the files of the neonatal intensive care unit.
Sixty adolescents (aged 12-18 years) born prematurely and 60 adolescents born at full term.
Main Outcome Measures
Tenderness thresholds were assessed by tender-point count and by dolorimeter.
The preterm-born children had significantly more tender points (6.0 ± 5.2 vs 3.3 ± 3.3; P = .001) and lower tender thresholds (4.2 ± 1.5 vs 4.8 ± 1.6 kg; P = .04), measured by a dolorimeter, than children born at full term. In both groups, girls had significantly more tender points and lower tender thresholds. Despite their increased tenderness, most of the preterm children did not report pain or other related symptoms.
The fact that preterm-born children and adolescents display higher somatic pain sensitivity may be of relevance to physicians taking care of these children, since they may be prone to developing pain syndromes in the future. Further follow-up studies are needed to confirm this hypothesis.