Can oral sucrose reduce the pain and distress associated with screening for retinopathy of prematurity?

J Perinatol. 2005 Jan;25(1):33-5. doi: 10.1038/


Objective: Infants undergoing eye exams to screen for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) demonstrate physiologic and behavioral manifestations of pain and distress. Oral sucrose has analgesic properties that might reduce these effects.

Aim: To determine the efficacy of oral sucrose in reducing the pain/distress of eye exams for ROP.

Methods: A total of 32 infants about to undergo ROP screening exams received either oral sucrose [S] (N=16) or sterile water [C] (N=16) in a randomized, prospective and blinded fashion. Outcome measures included HR, RR, O(2) saturation, BP, pain (premature infant pain profile) and percent of time spent crying during the eye exam.

Results: The groups were similar in GA (weeks) (28+/-1.6), BW (kg) (1.04+/-0.26), postnatal age (days) 50.8+/-20.3, and study weight (kg) 1.88+/-0.40). Both groups demonstrated significant increases in HR, BP, and pain score in response to the exam. Infants in both groups spent the majority of time actively crying during the exam ([S] 53+/-35% vs [C] 63+/-31%. Infants receiving [S] showed a small but significant drop in O(2) saturation. No significant differences were seen between groups in physiologic or behavioral responses to the eye exam.

Conclusion: Oral [S] was not effective in reducing pain/distress from the ROP screening exam. Alternative strategies should be considered to achieve adequate pain relief.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Blood Pressure
  • Crying
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Ophthalmological / adverse effects*
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Ophthalmological / psychology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Male
  • Neonatal Screening / adverse effects*
  • Neonatal Screening / psychology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Sucrose / administration & dosage
  • Sucrose / therapeutic use*
  • Sweetening Agents / administration & dosage
  • Sweetening Agents / therapeutic use*


  • Sweetening Agents
  • Sucrose