Facebook Pixel Code
About Sickkids
About SickKids

January 22, 2010

The Sweet Side of Pain Management

Just a drop or two of sugar water (sucrose) really does go a long way in reducing pain in infants, who are exposed to pricks and  pokes and more during their hospital stay.  That’s according to researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).  Using sucrose is the most frequently studied non-drug approach to managing pain in infants and now SickKids researchers have compiled the most comprehensive analysis of the data yet. The study is in published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1.

The scientists reviewed 44 studies involving over 3,000 newborn infants. They found that sucrose is safe and effective for reducing pain during single painful procedures. They assessed a broad range of procedures performed on infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), including heel pokes, injections and inserting IVs and catheters. The study showed sucrose decreased the babies’ crying time and pain behaviours such as grimacing. More research is needed to determine the optimal dose to give babies and how effective sugar is when it given repeatedly and in combination with other drugs.  

The authors say in the past, studies on pain management in the NICU have been lacking in terms of precise information on dosing, safety and use of sucrose on a repeated basis.  Dr. Bonnie Stevens, Associate Chief of Nursing Research, Signy Hildur Eaton Chair of Paediatric Nursing Research and Senior Scientist at SickKids, Professor at the University of Toronto in Nursing and Medicine and principal author of the study, hopes this research will provide caregivers with the knowledge and confidence to routinely use sugar to manage pain.

“As part of their hospitalization babies undergo a lot of painful procedures and pain has a lot of consequences,” says Stevens. “I urge all health professionals and parents to be advocates for babies when it comes to managing pain and work with their nurse to determine whether sucrose can help babies”.

According to Stevens, nurses like giving sucrose because it’s easy to use, safe and accessible, but most of all they can see the immediate benefit it has on decreasing babies’ pain.

The study was funded by CIHR Knowledge Synthesis Grant and SickKids Foundation.