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Int J Nurs Stud. 2012 Mar;49(3):300-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2011.09.017. Epub 2011 Oct 14.

Non-nutritive sucking and facilitated tucking relieve preterm infant pain during heel-stick procedures: a prospective, randomised controlled crossover trial.

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  • 1School of Nursing, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.



Preterm infants' repeated exposure to painful procedures may contribute to negative consequences. Thus, improving preterm infants' neurodevelopmental outcomes requires prioritising their pain management.


To compare the effectiveness of two non-pharmacological pain-relief strategies (non-nutritive sucking and facilitated tucking) with routine care on preterm infants' pain, behavioural, and physiological responses before, during, and after heel-stick procedures.


Prospective, randomised controlled crossover trial.


Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Taipei.


Thirty-four preterm infants (gestational age 29-37 weeks) needing three procedural heel sticks were recruited by convenience sampling and randomly assigned to a sequence of three treatments (two pain-relief interventions and the control condition): (1) routine care, non-nutritive sucking, facilitated tucking, (2) non-nutritive sucking, facilitated tucking, routine care, and (3) facilitated tucking, routine care, non-nutritive sucking. Each treatment condition was performed on a different day to avoid any carry-over effect. Pain was measured by the Premature Infant Pain Profile (PIPP), infant behaviour by a behavioural coding scheme, and physiological signals by electrocardiogram monitors. All data were collected 3 min without stimuli (baseline), during heel-stick procedures, and recovery.


Infants receiving non-nutritive sucking and facilitated tucking had significantly lower mean (standard deviation) pain scores during heel-stick procedures (6.39 [3.35] and 7.15 [3.88], respectively) than those receiving routine care (9.52 [4.95]). Infants receiving non-nutritive sucking and facilitated tucking had significantly lower odds ratios (0.39, p=0.011 and 0.34, p=0.005, respectively) for pain (PIPP score≥6) than infants receiving routine care after adjusting for time, baseline pain scores, and infants' characteristics. Similarly, infants receiving non-nutritive sucking and facilitated tucking had significantly lower odds ratios (0.23, p<0.001 and 0.28, p=0.03, respectively) for moderate-to-severe pain (PIPP score≥12) than infants receiving routine care. Infants receiving facilitated tucking had lower frequency ratios for stress-related behaviours, abnormal heart rates, and decreased oxygen saturation than infants receiving routine care.


Both non-nutritive sucking and facilitated tucking effectively reduced pain scores more than routine care during heel-stick procedures. Non-nutritive sucking reduced PIPP pain scores more effectively than facilitated tucking. However, facilitated tucking showed broader effects not only on relieving pain, but also on enhancing infants' physiological and behavioural stability during heel-stick procedures.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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