Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 94:F332-F335 doi:10.1136/adc.2008.154518
  • Original article

Premedication before intubation in UK neonatal units: a decade of change?

  1. J Kelleher1,
  2. P Mallya2,
  3. J Wyllie2
  1. 1
    Department of Neonatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  2. 2
    Department of Neonatology, The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, UK
  1. Correspondence to John Kelleher, Department of Neonatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 525 New Hillman Building, 619 20th St South, Birmingham, AL 35233, USA; jkelleher{at}
  • Accepted 9 February 2009
  • Published Online First 16 February 2009


Aims: To ascertain the prevalence of premedication before intubation and the choice of drugs used in UK neonatal units in 2007 and assess changes in practice since 1998.

Methods: A structured telephone survey of 221 eligible units was performed. 214 of the units surveyed completed the telephone questionnaire. The units were subdivided into those that routinely intubated and ventilated neonates (routine group) and those that intubated neonates prior to transfer to a regional unit (transfer group). A similar study was performed by one of the authors in 1998. The same telephone methodology was used in both studies.

Results: Premedication for newborn intubations was provided by 93% (198/214) of all UK units and 76% (162/214) had a written policy or guideline concerning premedication prior to elective intubation. Of those 198 units which premedicate, morphine was the most widely used sedative for newborn intubations with 80% (158/198) using either morphine alone or in combination with other drugs. The most widely used combination was morphine and suxamethonium±atropine, which was used by 21% (41/198) of all units. 78% (154/198) of all units administered a paralytic agent.

Conclusions: There has been substantial growth over the last decade in the number of UK neonatal units that provide some premedication for non-emergent newborn intubation, increasing from 37% in 1998 to 93% in 2007. This includes a concomitant increase in the use of paralytic drugs from 22% to 78%. However, the variety of drugs used merits further research.


  • Competing interests None.

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