Investigating the safety and feasibility of osteopathic manipulative medicine in hospitalized children and adolescent young adults with cancer

Jennifer A. Belsky, MS, DO; and Amber M. Brown, MS, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: January 17, 2024

Accepted: April 8, 2024

Published: April 29, 2024

  • Jennifer A. Belsky, MS, DO, 

    Department of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, IN, USA

  • Amber M. Brown, MS, DO, 

    Department of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, IN, USA


Context: Children and adolescents young adults (AYAs) undergoing treatment for oncologic diagnoses are frequently hospitalized and experience unwanted therapy-induced side effects that diminish quality of life. Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is a medical intervention that utilizes manual techniques to diagnose and treat body structures. Few studies have investigated the implementation of OMT in the pediatric oncology outpatient setting. To date, no studies have investigated the safety and feasibility of OMT in the pediatric oncology inpatient setting.

Objectives: The objective of this study is to investigate the safety and feasibility of OMT in the pediatric oncology inpatient setting.

Methods: This is a prospective, single-institution pilot study evaluating children and AYAs aged ≥2 years to ≤30 years with a diagnosis of cancer hospitalized at Riley Hospital for Children (RH) from September 2022 to July 2023. Approval was obtained from the Indiana University Institutional Review Board (IRB). Patients were evaluated daily with a history and physical examination as part of routine inpatient management. Patients who reported chemotherapy side effects commonly encountered and managed in the inpatient setting, such as pain, headache, neuropathy, constipation, or nausea, were offered OMT. Patients provided written informed consent/assent prior to receiving OMT. OMT was provided by trained osteopathic medical students under the supervision of a board-certified osteopathic physician and included techniques commonly taught in first- and second-year osteopathic medical school curricula. Safety was assessed by a validated pain (FACES) scale immediately pre/post-OMT and by adverse event grading per Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) 24 h post-OMT. All data were summarized utilizing descriptive statistics.

Results: A total of 11 patients were screened for eligibility. All patients met the eligibility criteria and were enrolled in the study. The majority of patients were male (n=7, 63.6 %) with a median age of 18.2 years at time of enrollment (range, 10.2–29.8 years). Patients had a variety of hematologic malignancies including B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) (n=5, 45.5 %), T-cell ALL (n=1, 9.1 %), acute myeloid leukemia (AML) (n=2, 18.2 %), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (n=2, 18.2 %), and Hodgkin’s lymphoma (n=1, 9.1 %). All patients were actively undergoing cancer-directed therapy at the time of enrollment. There were 40 unique reasons for OMT reported and treated across 37 encounters, including musculoskeletal pain (n=23, 57.5 %), edema (n=7, 17.5 %), headache (n=5, 12.5 %), peripheral neuropathy (n=2, 5.0 %), constipation (n=2, 5.0 %), and epigastric pain not otherwise specified (n=1, 2.5 %). Validated FACES pain scores were reported in 27 encounters. Of the 10 encounters for which FACES pain scores were not reported, 8 encounters addressed lower extremity edema, 1 encounter addressed peripheral neuropathy, and 1 encounter addressed constipation. The total time of OMT was documented for 33 of the 37 encounters and averaged 9.8 min (range, 3–20 min).

Conclusions: Hospitalized children and AYAs with cancer received OMT safely with decreased pain in their reported somatic dysfunction(s). These findings support further investigation into the safety, feasibility, and efficacy of implementing OMT in the pediatric oncology inpatient setting and to a broader inpatient pediatric oncology population.

Read Full Article