Objective To determine whether the complementary approach of manipulative osteopathic treatment accelerates complete meconium excretion and improves feeding tolerance in very low birth weight infants.
Methods This study was a prospective, randomised, controlled trial in premature infants with a birth weight 1500 g and a gestational age 32 weeks who received a visceral osteopathic treatment algorithm 3 times during their first week of life or no treatment.
Results Passage of last meconium occurred after a median of 7.5 days (95% confidence interval: 6–9 days, n = 20) in the intervention group and after 6 days (95% confidence interval: 5–9 days, n = 21) in the control group (p = 0.11). However, osteopathic treatment was associated with a 12 day longer time to full enteral feedings (p = 0.02), and a longer hospital stay (44 days longer in the intervention group; n.s). Osteopathic treatment was tolerated well and no adverse events were observed.
Conclusions Visceral osteopathic treatment oft the abdomen did not accelerate meconium excretion in VLBW-infants. However infants in the osteopathic group had a longer time to full enteral feedings and a longer hospital stay what must be interpreted as negative side effect. Further investigations are needed with modified protocols focussed on cranial osteopathy in this vulnerable group of patients. Currently the application of visceral osteopathic techniques cannot be recommended in VLBW-infants without further clinical trials.