Oral Sucrose and Pain Relief for Preterm Infants

Anita Mitchell, RN, PhD, Patricia A. Waltman, RNC, EdD, NNP


Pain Manag Nurs. 2003;4(2) 

In This Article

The Combination of Sucrose and Rocking

Johnston, Stremler, Stevens, and Horton (1997) determined the effectiveness of oral sucrose and rocking to relieve procedural pain in preterm infants. Eighty-five infants between 25 and 34 weeks of age were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: 24% sucrose alone, rocking alone, combined 24% sucrose and rocking, and a control group that was given sterile water without rocking. The sucrose dose was .05 ml. Both the sucrose and water were given by syringe. Pain responses were measured using increase in heart rate and the Neonatal Facial Coding System (NFCS). The NFCS was originally designed to assess pain in full-term neonates and was based on findings that facial activity is a sensitive indicator of pain (Grunau & Craig, 1987; 1990).

The administration of sucrose alone or in combination with rocking resulted in a significant reduction of facial expression of pain (p < .02). No significant difference in facial expression was found between sucrose alone and sucrose in combination with rocking. Similarly, no significant difference in facial expression was found between rocking alone and the control group. No significant differences in heart rates were found among the four groups (p = .566) (Johnston et al., 1997).

One limitation to this study is that the treatment groups contained varying numbers of infants resulting from early termination of the study. The study was stopped when it became evident that sucrose provided significant pain relief and the rocking did not. The group that received sucrose in combination with rocking was smaller in number than the other groups.


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