Oral sucrose and non-nutritive sucking goes some way to reducing pain during retinopathy of prematurity eye examinations

Acta Paediatr. 2014 Feb;103(2):e76-9. doi: 10.1111/apa.12454. Epub 2013 Nov 11.


Aim: To evaluate the efficacy of oral sucrose combined with non-nutritive sucking for reducing pain associated with retinopathy of prematurity screening.

Methods: This was a randomised controlled study of 64 infants undergoing eye examination for retinopathy of prematurity screening. Topical anaesthetic (Proparacaine; Alcaine(®) drop 0.5%: ALCON CANADA Inc., Mississauga, Canada) was applied 30 sec before the eye examination in all infants. The infants in intervention group (Group 1, n = 32) received 0.5 mL/kg of 24% sucrose with a pacifier. The control group (Group 2, n = 32) received 0.5 mL/kg of sterile water with a pacifier.

Results: The groups had similar gestational ages (28.5 ± 2.8 weeks), mean birthweight (1304 ± 466 g) or corrected gestational age (35.4 ± 3.7 weeks) at examination. The intervention group had a significantly lower mean Premature Infant Pain Profile score during examination of the first eye, following insertion of the speculum (Group 1:13.7 ± 2.1 vs. Group 2:16.4 ± 1.8, p = 0.001).

Conclusion: Although sucrose combined with non-nutritive sucking modestly reduces pain scores during eye examinations, there is need to further studies to explore significant pain relief for infants undergoing retinopathy of prematurity screening.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01811979.

Keywords: Eye examination; Non-nutritive sucking; Pain; Retinopathy of prematurity; Sucrose.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pacifiers*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / diagnosis*
  • Sucking Behavior*
  • Sucrose / therapeutic use*
  • Vision Tests / adverse effects*


  • Sucrose

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01811979