Acute and Chronic Pain in Children.
Behavioral Neurobiology of Chronic Pain
Current topics in behavioral neurosciences, July 2014
Gareth J. Hathway
Bradley K. Taylor, David P. Finn
Pain in neonates and children differs to that in adults. One of the many challenges associated with the diagnosis and management of pain in early life is that neonates are non-verbal and therefore incapable of communicating their pain effectively to their caregivers. Early life pain is characterised by lowered thermal and mechanical thresholds, and exaggerated and often inappropriate behavioural reactions to pain. These differing behavioural reactions are underpinned by increased excitability/decreased inhibition within the spinal dorsal horn. This itself is the result of immaturity in the anatomical expression of key neurotransmitters and neuromodulators within spinal pain circuits, as well as decreased inhibitory input to these circuits from brainstem centres, and an immature relationship between neuronal and non-neuronal cells which affects pain response. These differences between early and adult pain impact upon not just acute reactions to pain, but also the incidence, severity and duration of chronic pain. In this chapter, chronic pain in childhood is discussed, as are the structural and functional differences that underpin differences in acute pain processing between adults and children. The ability of pain that occurs in early life to alter life-long pain responding is also addressed.
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