• analgesia;
  • blood specimen collection;
  • infant;
  • newborn;
  • pain;
  • sucrose

Objective:  To determine the efficacy of 25% oral sucrose in the reduction of pain during a heel lance procedure in sick hospitalized infants.

Methodology:  In a blinded randomized- controlled trial, hospitalized infants were given either 1 mL 25% sucrose or 1 mL water 2 min prior to a heel lance procedure. Pain assessment comprised a four-point facial expression score, incidence and duration of crying, heart rate and oxygen saturation changes.

Results:  A total of 128 infants were included. Facial scores immediately upon heel lance, and at 1 and 2 min in the recovery period were reduced in the treatment (sucrose) group compared to the placebo (water) group (P < 0.05). At other observation points, the differences in facial scores between the two groups of infants did not reach statistical significance. Neither incidence nor duration of crying whilst the blood collection was in progress was significantly reduced by sucrose. In  the 3-min recovery period following completion of the blood collection, incidence and duration of crying were significantly less in the treatment group of infants (P < 0.05). Physiological responses of heart rate and oxygen saturation were not attenuated by sucrose at any time point during or following the blood collection.

Conclusion:  Oral sucrose was effective in reducing behavioural responses to pain upon heel lance and in the period following completion of a heel lance procedure in this group of sick hospitalized infants. This simple strategy can be promoted in institutions caring for sick babies, as a method of reducing behavioural responses to procedural pain.