Analgesia for Retinopathy of Prematurity Screening: A Systematic Review.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Premature neonates require regular ophthalmological examination, generally indirect ophthalmoscopy, to screen for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Conventional analgesia is provided with topical anaesthetic eyedrops and oral sugar solution, but neonates still experience significant pain. Here, the literature base was examined to evaluate the usefulness of other pharmacological analgesics. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A systematic review was undertaken, adhering to a PROSPERO preregistered protocol in accordance with PRISMA guidelines (identifier CRD42022302459). Electronic databases were searched for primary research articles on pharmacological pain interventions used for ROP screening in neonates. The primary outcome measure was pain scores recorded using validated pain scoring tools, with and without pharmacological interventions in neonates during eye examination. For analysis, studies were separated into two categories: topical anaesthesia and alternative pharmacological treatments. RESULTS: Eleven studies met the inclusion criteria. Topical analgesia, oral paracetamol, and intranasal fentanyl were found to be effective in reducing the pain of eye examination. Oral morphine and inhaled nitrous oxide had no significant effect on premature infant pain profile (PIPP) scores during indirect ophthalmoscopy. DISCUSSION: In addition to topical anaesthesia, premedication with oral paracetamol is recommended during screening examination for ROP. The routine use of fentanyl is not recommended due to the risk of potential side effects. Non-pharmacological measures, such as sweet oral solutions and comfort techniques may also be employed. Further research is required to determine whether the use of nitrous oxide has a role, and to develop a safe and effective analgesic strategy to fully ameliorates the pain of ROP screening.