Intranasal Analgosedation for Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: A Systematic Review

Neonatology. 2022;119(3):273-284. doi: 10.1159/000521949. Epub 2022 Mar 1.


Aim: Pain management is important for newborns' immediate and long-term well-being. While intranasal analgesia and sedation have been well studied in children, their use could be extended to term and preterm infants. This systematic review aims to assess the use of intranasal medications for procedural analgesia or sedation in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Methods: MEDLINE via Ovid, Scopus, Embase, and Cochrane Library were searched independently by two reviewers for clinical studies on sedation or analgesia given intranasally.

Results: Seven studies, with 401 patients, were included. The studies described various molecules (midazolam, fentanyl, ketamine, or dexmedetomidine) for different procedures such as intubation in the delivery room, screening for retinopathy, or magnetic resonance imaging. All studies reported significant reduction in pain and sedation markers (based on clinical scales, skin conductance, and clinical variables such as heart rate and crying time). Adverse effects were uncommon and mostly consisted in desaturation, apnoea, hypotension, or paradoxical reactions.

Discussion and conclusion: The intranasal route seems a potential alternative for procedural pain management and sedation in neonates, especially when intravenous access is not available. However, data about safety remain limited. Reported sides effects could be attributed to molecules used rather than the intranasal route. Optimal drugs and doses still need to be characterized. Further studies are needed to ensure safety before promoting a widespread use of intranasal medications in neonatology.

Keywords: Analgosedation; Infant; Intranasal route; Pain management; Preterm infant.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives