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Randomised controlled trial of eutectic mixture of local anaesthetics cream for venepuncture in healthy preterm infants


AIM To assess the safety and efficacy of EMLA cream (eutectic mixture of local anaesthetics) used to induce surface anaesthesia for venepuncture in healthy preterm infants.

METHODS Nineteen infants, median gestational age 31 weeks (range 26–33 weeks) were assessed in a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled, cross-over trial. Changes in physiological variables (heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation) and behavioural responses (neonatal facial coding system score, crying time) before and after venepuncture with EMLA cream were compared with those obtained with a placebo cream to assess efficacy. Toxicity was assessed by comparing methaemoglobin concentrations at 1 hour and 8 hours after application.

RESULTS There was no significant difference in efficacy between EMLA and placebo creams in physiological and behavioural responses. There was no significant difference in methaemoglobin concentrations one hour after the cream had been applied. At eight hours, however, concentrations were significantly higher after EMLA than placebo (p=0.016). There was no evidence of clinical toxicity.

CONCLUSION This study does not support the routine use of EMLA for venepuncture in healthy preterm infants.

  • methaemoglobin
  • surface anaesthesia
  • EMLA
  • venepuncture

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