Infant Medical Trauma in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (IMTN)

Amy L. D'Agata, Erin E. Young, Xiaomei Cong, Damion J. Grasso, Jacqueline M. McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: Trauma is an innately subjective experience ensuing from a deeply distressing event. Research has demonstrated that while the environment of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is capable of providing extraordinary lifesaving measures following birth, the experience may be disruptive to several key aspects of early development, placing infants at risk for adverse behavioral, cognitive, and emotional outcomes. Purpose: This article provides rationale for the concept of Infant Medical Trauma in the NICU (IMTN) as a means of describing this unique stress experience. A triad of cumulative early life NICU experiences (stress, parental separation, and pain) is proposed to influence an infant's swinging neurodevelopmental pendulum amid the potential outcomes of risk and resilience. Implications for Practice and Research: Creating language that describes the infant experience brings meaning and calls caregivers and parents to action to consider strategies that may improve long-term health. Actively seeking opportunities to decrease the allostatic load of at-risk infants may support an infant's pendulum to swing toward a path of resilience, thereby moderating his or her early life adverse experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-297
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Neonatal Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • NICU
  • brain
  • infants
  • medical trauma
  • neonatal intensive care
  • neurodevelopment
  • pain
  • parent-infant separation
  • preterm infants
  • resilience
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Infant Medical Trauma in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (IMTN)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this