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29-07-2012 | Gynaecology | Article

A touch may go a long way for preterm babies


Free abstract

MedWire News: Therapeutic touch may have a protective effect on the autoregulation of cerebral blood flow in preterm neonates in response to pain, report researchers.

Noritsugu Honda (University Faculty of Medicine, Osaka, Japan) and colleagues found that when therapeutic touch was applied to preterm neonates (28-33 weeks) after a low-intensity sensory punctuate stimulus, oxy-hemoglobin concentration increased from 0.0 mM•mm to 0.15 mM•mm.

However, there were no significant changes in heart rate, arterial oxygen saturation, or body movement with therapeutic touch after a low-intensity sensory punctuate stimulus.

Therapeutic touching involved facilitated tucking (containment) of the infant's whole body by a neonatal development specialist nurse using both hands from 1 minute before the sensory punctuate stimulation to 30 seconds afterward.

Each baby was wrapped by the nurse's hands and touched gently with the palms of both hands - with the right hand placed on the upper body and left hand placed on the lower back and hip.

"Here we demonstrate the possibility that therapeutic touch can reduce excessive brain activity induced by sensory punctuate stimulus," remark the authors.

They report that although the intensity of sensory punctuate stimulation used in the study was lower than the clinical pain that neonates are usually exposed to, due to ethical reasons, "the sensory punctuate stimulation successfully induced brain activation, and therapeutic touch decreased this brain activation."

Honda and team say their findings are consistent with those of previous suggestions that noxious stimulation evokes specific hemodynamic changes in the cortex of preterm infants, and painful stimuli elicit hemodynamic responses in the contralateral somatosensory cortex following unilateral stimulation.

"These findings support the accumulating evidence that modulating pain responses in the neonatal period has implications for brain development and plasticity," write the authors in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

"Therapeutic touch, as applied in the neonatal intensive care unit, may have a protective effect on the autoregulation of cerebral blood flow during pain exposure in neonates."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Piriya Mahendra, MedWire Reporter

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