Using sucrose to control pain in newborns

Sucrose has pain relieving and calming effects in newborns. But do these beneficial effects extend to care-giving procedures performed after painful procedures?

Researchers at the University of Toronto in Ontario report their findings, with an update for 2011.

First, the details.

  • 186 healthy neonates (normal infants and infants of diabetic mothers) were randomly assigned to a treatment before all needle procedures after birth.
    • Sucrose
    • Placebo (water)
  • Pain response during a diaper change performed after blood drawing was determined using the Premature Infant Pain Profile (PIPP).
  • The researchers and patients were not aware of the treatment given — double-blind.

And, the results.

  • During diaper change, sucrose-treated infants had significantly lower pain scores than placebo-treated infants.
  • The number needed to treat to prevent 1 infant from having pain was 4.
  • No adverse effects were observed.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Sucrose reduces the pain response to a subsequent routine care-giving procedure. Therefore, the benefits of sucrose analgesia extend beyond the painful event to other aversive and potentially painful procedures.”

In an earlier study, researchers from the University of Alberta in Edmonton reported that sucrose appeared “to provide additional benefit when used with a pacifier during blood drawing in infants.

Since publication of this study, the same researchers in Toronto just updated research to include 330 healthy term newborns. Before venipuncture for the newborn screening test, neonates were assigned to a treatment group.

  • 1 g of liposomal lidocaine cream topically
  • 2 mL of 24% sucrose solution orally
  • Sucrose and liposomal lidocaine

The authors concluded, “Sucrose was more effective than liposomal lidocaine for reducing pain during venipuncture in newborns. The addition of liposomal lidocaine to sucrose did not confer any additional benefit to sucrose alone.”

3/7/09 21:51 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.