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Randomised controlled trial of paracetamol for heel prick pain in neonates


AIM To evaluate the effectiveness of paracetamol in decreasing the pain from heel prick.

METHODS A prospective randomised double blind placebo controlled trial was conducted of 75 term neonates undergoing heel prick. Sixty to 90 minutes before the procedure neonates received paracetamol orally in a dose of 20 mg/kg (group 1) or an equal volume of placebo (group 2). Heel prick was performed in a standardised manner. Pain assessments were made using per cent facial action (brow bulge, eye squeeze, and nasolabial fold (range 0–300%) and per cent of time spent crying (range 0–100%).

RESULTS Thirty eight neonates were enrolled in group 1 and 37 neonates in group 2. There were no significant differences in the demographic characteristics between groups. Mean gestational age was 39 (SD 1.4) vs 39.4 (SD 1.2) weeks, p=0.86, mean birthweight 3.45 (SD 0.45) vs 3.44 (SD 0.42) kg; p=0.31 for groups 1 and 2, respectively. Facial action pain scores did not differ between groups (143.5 (SD 54.2)% vs 131.1 (SD 59.6)%; p=0.38). Cry scores also did not differ (29.4 (SD 19.9)%vs 26.8 (SD 20.2)%; p=0.60). No adverse effects were observed.

CONCLUSION Paracetamol is ineffective for decreasing the pain from heel prick in term neonates.

  • pain
  • heel prick
  • paracetamol

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