To systematically test the cumulative effect of the M Technique on infant neurodevelopment in hospitalized very preterm infants.
A pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT).
Twenty very preterm infants (<30 weeks gestation with average birth weights <1000 g) were randomly assigned to nontreatment or treatment groups. The study period began once the infants reached 30 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA).
Each infant received standard neonatal intensive unit (NICU) care or standard NICU care plus a 7-minute M Technique session, 6 times per week for 5 weeks. Neurobehavioral development (using the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale [NNNS]) and growth velocity (difference in infant weight at the beginning and end of protocol) were compared between the 2 groups. Physiologic parameters (heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturations) and infant behavioral states were measured 5 minutes before, during, and up to 10 minutes postintervention continuously on all infants in the treatment group at 3 different gestational time points (30, 32, and 34 weeks PMA) over the 5-week period.
Mann-Whitney U analyses revealed no differences between the 2 groups on all 12 NNNS summary score domains but a difference in growth velocity between the 2 groups (P = 0.005). Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed significant physiologic differences of mean heart rate, respiratory rate, and SaO2 (F = 41.116, P < 0.0005) and behavioral states (F = 38.564, P < 0.0005) from baseline to 10 minutes after the M Technique intervention across all 3 time points. State scores decreased from baseline (M = 6.11) to post intervention (M = 1.4) at all 3 time points.
This pilot RCT demonstrates the utility of the M Technique in hospitalized very preterm infants starting at 30 weeks PMA with notable evidence of positive weight, physiological, and behavioral state adaptations. Additional research is needed with a larger, randomized design to determine short- and long-term effects specifically related to neurological outcomes.