Does topical amethocaine gel reduce pain from heel prick blood sampling in premature infants? A randomized double-blind cross-over controlled study
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BACKGROUND: Heel prick blood sampling is the most common painful invasive procedure performed on neonates. Currently, there are no effective ways to provide pain relief from this painful procedure. OBJECTIVE: To assess the efficacy of the topical anesthetic amethocaine 4% gel (Ametop, Smith & Nephew Inc, St Laurent) in reducing the pain of heel prick blood sampling in neonates. METHODS: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover trial was conducted. Neonates between 33 to 37 weeks' gestational age in their first seven days of life were eligible. Heel prick blood sampling was performed on each participant twice. Each infant was randomly assigned to receive either amethocaine 4% gel or placebo to the heel for the first prick, and then received the alternative agent for the second prick. Prick pain was assessed using both Premature Infant Pain Profile (PIPP) and Neonatal Infant Pain Scale (NIPS). Squeeze pain was assessed by NIPS. RESULTS: Ten babies were recruited. There were no significant differences in the average PIPP and NIPS scores between the treatment and placebo groups for both prick and squeeze pains from heel prick blood sampling. For prick pain, linear-regression showed significant correlation between the PIPP and NIPS scores. No adverse reactions were observed after application of either the active or placebo agents. CONCLUSION: Topical amethocaine 4% gel is not shown to reduce prick and squeeze pains significantly from heel prick blood sampling in neonates between 33 to 37 weeks' gestational age. Further studies are needed to find ways to provide effective pain relief from this common procedure.
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