Purpose: Interdisciplinary team members interact with infants to facilitate progressive physiologic stability. The focus of the physical therapist’s role is promotion of sensorimotor development in infants born preterm. The aim of this review was to examine evidence for physical therapist practice in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as it relates to developmental intervention (DI) for infants born prematurely and to present the evidence of physical therapy techniques used in the NICU.
Summary of Key Points: A literature review was performed resulting in identification of 26 articles that examined specific developmental intervention techniques. The articles were critiqued based on their design. Twelve articles were rated highly, indicating that sensory techniques implemented by physical therapists appear to be an appropriate and effective component of DI. The general consensus was that there is a lack of large, well-controlled, randomized studies in this area of pediatric outcome research.
Conclusions: Neonatal physical therapy falls under the umbrella of DI. There is substantial agreement about the benefits of DI, but the multimodal and interdisciplinary nature of the evidence limits the ability to identify the effectiveness of any one healthcare professional in the provision of DI in the NICU.