What is oral sucrose?
Oral sucrose is a simple sugar solution. It can cause the body to release endorphins, which are chemicals that can help reduce pain. Oral sucrose is sometimes used to comfort infants and toddlers during procedures that could cause pain. It is given on the tongue or inside the cheek, and the action of sucking on a pacifier is thought to increase the effect of sucrose. It will still work for babies who cannot use a pacifier.
When can oral sucrose be used?
Oral sucrose is used in patients up to 2 years of age during painful and uncomfortable procedures such as the following:
- Heel sticks (for blood samples)
- Venipuncture (taking blood samples from a vein)
- Starting an IV
- Intramuscular (IM) injections
- Removing an epidural
- Removing tape from the skin
- Dressing changes
- Lumbar punctures (taking fluid from the spinal cord)
- Bone Marrow Aspiration (taking sample of liquid marrow from the bone)
- Bone Marrow Biopsy (taking out a small piece of solid marrow from the bone)
- Placing a urinary catheter
- Chest tube insertion or removal
- Inserting a nasogastric tube
- Eye exams
- Circumcisions (removing foreskin from penis)
When should oral sucrose not be used?
- The child has problems with digesting food or liquids
- The child must be NPO, without food and water before a procedure, (may have up to 2 hours before procedure)
- The child is paralyzed or has a breathing tube
- The child has necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a disease that destroys part of the intestine
- The child recently had oral surgery
- The child has grade 3 or 4 mucositis, which causes ulcers and pain in the mouth and digestive tract
- The child has diabetes (high blood sugar)
- The child is receiving inotropic drug therapy for heart problems
- The child has a decreased gag reflex
- The child is preparing for PET scan
- The child is fasting for lab tests
How is oral sucrose given?
A staff member will place 1 or 2 drops of the sucrose solution onto the child’s tongue or inside the cheek 2 minutes before a painful procedure, during the procedure, and after the procedure, if needed. A pacifier may be inserted after the drops are given. No more than 3 ml should be given within an 8 hour time frame.
Oral sucrose should be combined with other comfort measures, such as holding and swaddling the infant, position changes, and distraction.
This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.
St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
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