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BACKGROUND: Lumbar puncture is an essential tool for diagnosing meningitis. Neonatal lumbar puncture, although frequently performed, has low success rates (50-60%). Standard technique includes lying infants on their side and removing the stylet 'late', that is, after the needle is thought to have entered the cerebrospinal fluid. Modifications to this technique include holding infants in the sitting position and removing the stylet 'early', that is, following transection of the skin. To the best of our knowledge, modified techniques have not previously been tested in adequately powered trials. OBJECTIVES: The aim of the Neonatal Champagne Lumbar punctures Every time - An RCT (NeoCLEAR) trial was to compare two modifications to standard lumbar puncture technique, that is, use of the lying position rather than the sitting position and of 'early' rather than 'late' stylet removal, in terms of success rates and short-term clinical, resource and safety outcomes. METHODS: This was a multicentre 2 × 2 factorial pragmatic non-blinded randomised controlled trial. Infants requiring lumbar puncture (with a working weight ≥ 1000 g and corrected gestational age from 27+0 to 44+0 weeks), and whose parents provided written consent, were randomised by web-based allocation to lumbar puncture (1) in the sitting or lying position and (2) with early or late stylet removal. The trial was powered to detect a 10% absolute risk difference in the primary outcome, that is, the percentage of infants with a successful lumbar puncture (cerebrospinal fluid containing < 10,000 red cells/mm3). The primary outcome was analysed by modified intention to treat. RESULTS: Of 1082 infants randomised (sitting with early stylet removal, n = 275; sitting with late stylet removal, n = 271; lying with early stylet removal, n = 274; lying with late stylet removal, n = 262), 1076 were followed up until discharge. Most infants were term born (950/1076, 88.3%) and were aged < 3 days (936/1076, 87.0%) with a working weight > 2.5 kg (971/1076, 90.2%). Baseline characteristics were balanced across groups. In terms of the primary outcome, the sitting position was significantly more successful than lying [346/543 (63.7%) vs. 307/533 (57.6%), adjusted risk ratio 1.10 (95% confidence interval 1.01 to 1.21); p = 0.029; number needed to treat = 16 (95% confidence interval 9 to 134)]. There was no significant difference in the primary outcome between early stylet removal and late stylet removal [338/545 (62.0%) vs. 315/531 (59.3%), adjusted risk ratio 1.04 (95% confidence interval 0.94 to 1.15); p = 0.447]. Resource consumption was similar in all groups, and all techniques were well tolerated and safe. LIMITATIONS: This trial predominantly recruited term-born infants who were < 3 days old, with working weights > 2.5 kg. The impact of practitioners' seniority and previous experience of different lumbar puncture techniques was not investigated. Limited data on resource use were captured, and parent/practitioner preferences were not assessed. CONCLUSION: Lumbar puncture success rate was higher with infants in the sitting position but was not affected by timing of stylet removal. Lumbar puncture is a safe, well-tolerated and simple technique without additional cost, and is easily learned and applied. The results support a paradigm shift towards sitting technique as the standard position for neonatal lumbar puncture, especially for term-born infants during the first 3 days of life. FUTURE WORK: The superiority of the sitting lumbar puncture technique should be tested in larger populations of premature infants, in those aged > 3 days and outside neonatal care settings. The effect of operators' previous practice and the impact on family experience also require further investigation, alongside in-depth analyses of healthcare resource utilisation. Future studies should also investigate other factors affecting lumbar puncture success, including further modifications to standard technique. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial is registered as ISRCTN14040914 and as Integrated Research Application System registration 223737. FUNDING: This award was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme (NIHR award ref: 15/188/106) and is published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 33. See the NIHR Funding and Awards website for further award information.

Original publication




Journal article


Health Technol Assess

Publication Date





1 - 97


Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Infant, Premature, Intention, Spinal Puncture, Technology Assessment, Biomedical