Background: The purpose of the present study was to determine the effects of massage therapy on motor development, weight gain, and hospital discharge in preterm very low-birthweight (VLBW) newborns. Methods: Twenty-four preterm VLBW newborns (<34 weeks and <1500 g) were enrolled in this randomized controlled pilot study. The intervention group (n = 12) received massage therapy starting at 34 weeks post-conceptional age (15 min daily, 5 days/week for 4 weeks). The infants in the sham treatment group (n = 12) received similar duration of light still touch. Test of Infant Motor Performance (TIMP) score gain, weight gain, and post-conceptional age at discharge were compared between the two groups after intervention using Mann-Whitney U-test. Results: No significant between-group difference in TIMP score gain and weight gain was identified when all subjects were analyzed. In subgroup analysis, among those with below-average pre-treatment TIMP score (<35), the intervention group (n = 6) achieved significantly higher TIMP score gain (P = 0.043) and earlier hospital discharge (P = 0.045) than the sham treatment group (n = 5). These same infants, however, also had significantly shorter duration of total parenteral nutrition than their counterparts in the sham treatment group (P = 0.044). Conclusions: Massage therapy might be a viable intervention to promote motor outcomes in a subgroup of VLBW newborns with poor motor performance. A larger randomized controlled trial is required to further explore the effects of massage therapy in this high-risk group.
- Intensive care unit
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health