Procedural pain relief is sub-optimal in infants, especially small and vulnerable ones. Tetracaine gel 4% (Ametop®, Smith-Nephew) provides pain relief in children and larger infants, but its efficacy in smaller infants and for peripherally inserted central catheters (PICC) remains uncertain. The objective of this trial was to assess the safety and efficacy of tetracaine gel on the pain response of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants during insertion of a PICC.
Medically stable infants greater than or equal to 24 weeks gestation, requiring a non-urgent PICC, were included. Following randomization and double blinding, 1.1 g of tetracaine or placebo was applied to the skin for 30 minutes. The PICC was inserted according to a standard protocol. Pain was assessed using the Premature Infant Pain Profile (PIPP). A 3-point change in the pain score was considered clinically significant, leading to a sample size of 54 infants, with 90% statistical power. Local skin reactions and immediate adverse cardiorespiratory events were noted. The primary outcome, PIPP score at 1 minute, was analysed using an independent Student's t-test.
Fifty-four infants were included, 27 +/- 2 weeks gestation, 916 +/- 292 grams and 6.5 +/- 3.2 days of age. Baseline characteristics were similar between groups. The mean PIPP score in the first minute was 10.88 in the treatment group as compared to 11.74 in the placebo group (difference 0.86, 95% CI -1.86, 3.58). Median duration of crying in non-intubated infants was 181 seconds in the tetracaine group compared to 68 seconds in the placebo group (difference -78, 95% CI -539, 117). Local skin erythema was observed transiently in 4 infants (3 in the treatment and 1 in the placebo group). No serious harms were observed.
Tetracaine 4% when applied for 30 minutes was not beneficial in decreasing procedural pain associated with a PICC in very small infants.