PediatricsOriginal Article

Pilot study assessing the effect of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) on length of stay in neonates after therapeutic hypothermia

Kira Bendixen, DO; Alexis Beinlich, DO; Bryan Beck, DO; Nabeel Hashmi, MS IV; and Alexa Craig, MD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: January 5, 2020

Accepted: March 30, 2020

Published: January 29, 2021

  • Kira Bendixen, DO, 

    Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, Dillingham, AK, USA

  • Alexis Beinlich, DO, 

    Departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, Maine Medical Center, Portland, ME, USA

  • Bryan Beck, DO, 

    Hospital Manipulation Service, Maine Medical Center, Portland, ME, USA

  • Nabeel Hashmi, MS IV, 

    Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

  • Alexa Craig, MD, 

    Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

J Osteopath Med; 1(1): 97-104

Context: Term neonates treated with therapeutic hypothermia (TH) may experience delays in acquiring skills for oral feeding, thus prolonging hospital admission.

Objective: To determine whether osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) can decrease the overall length of stay (LOS) for term neonates by accelerating the transition to full oral feeds.

Methods: A pilot study was conducted to compare LOS in term neonates treated with OMT to matched historical controls. Eligibility criteria were gestational age greater than or equal to 37 weeks, mild to moderate encephalopathy, absent seizure activity, and no brain injury on magnetic resonance imaging. Treated neonates had OMT twice between day of life four and seven, then twice per week on nonconsecutive days until hospital discharge. Secondary outcomes were to compare the number of days with nasogastric tube in both OMT and historically matched control groups and to characterize somatic dysfunction patterns in the primary affected areas of the craniosacral mechanism.

Results: Twelve of 28 neonates treated with TH between October 2017 and August 2018 met eligibility criteria for the study and were matched 3:1 to 36 historical controls. On average, mothers of neonates who received OMT were older than the historical control mothers (31.3 years [SD, ±6.0] vs. 27.4 [SD, ±4.5]; p=0.02) Nineteen of the 36 historical control neonates, but no neonates in the OMT group, were intubated for a median of two days (interquartile range 1, 4). The mean LOS in the OMT group was 9.1 vs. 11.6 days for historical controls (p=0.048); however, in a sensitivity analysis excluding intubated neonates from the historical controls, the difference was 9.1 vs. 10.1 days (p=0.21). All neonates were orally feeding at discharge. Neonates given OMT had between two and four treatments lasting 8–20 minutes. By the final treatment, the craniosacral mechanism’s intraosseous and cranial base compressions and physiologic motion were improved. There were no adverse effects noted during OMT sessions.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that OMT performed on term neonates treated with TH may decrease the amount of time needed to acquire the necessary skills for oral feeding. Although this result was not statistically significant, it may be clinically significant. A larger prospective clinical trial may have the power needed to detect a statistically significant reduction in LOS and number of days to full oral feeds in this patient population.

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