PURPOSE: To explore the hypothesis that nontouch therapy such as therapeutic touch (TT) reduces stress to a clinically important degree and is safe to use in preterm infants.
DESIGN: A pilot randomized, double-blind, controlled trial.
SUBJECTS: Two groups of 10 infants were enrolled and randomly assigned to treatment or nontreatment groups. Gestational age was less than 29 weeks. Demographic descriptions of the 2 groups were statistically similar.
METHODS: The observer and staff were blinded to assignment; the TT practitioner was blinded to observed measurements. Each infant received either TT or no therapeutic touch (NTT) for 5 minutes on 3 consecutive days at the same time of day, behind a curtain. Heart period variability (HPV) was measured 5 minutes before, during, and after the treatment phase.
RESULTS: Examination of the parameters of oxygen saturation and episodes of apnea demonstrated no increase in adverse events in TT group compared with NTT group. Repeated-measures multivariate analysis of variance on HPV revealed differences in the interaction of group assignment with low-frequency, high-frequency, and low-to-high- frequency ratio interaction (F2,143 = 8.076, P = .000) and for group, day, and low-frequency, high-frequency, and low-to-high-frequency ratio (F2,288 = 3.146, P = .015), and in the posttreatment time period (F1,16 = 6.259, P = .024), reflective of greater parasympathetic activity in TT group.
CONCLUSION: In this pilot trial, HPV showed an increase for the TT group compared with the NTT group. The study reveals no adverse effects of TT in preterm infants.