Occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology in the neonatal intensive care unit: Patterns of therapy usage in a level IV NICU

Katherine Ross, Elizabeth Heiny, Sandra Conner, Patricia Spener, Roberta Pineda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives 1) To describe the use of occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) services in a level IV neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), 2) to describe predictors of early therapy usage, and 3) to test the hypothesis that more NICU-based therapy will relate to better neurobehavioral outcomes. Methods Seventy-nine infants born ≤32 weeks gestation had therapy interventions, as standard of care, tracked across NICU hospitalization. Infants received neurobehavioral testing prior to NICU discharge. Results All (100%) received OT and PT, and 41 (51%) received SLP. The average age at initiation of OT, PT, and SLP was 30.4 ± 1.4, 30.3 ± 1.4, and 35.9 ± 2.3 weeks postmenstrual age, respectively. Infants received therapy an average of 1.8 ± .4, 1.8 ± .4 and 1.1 ± .5 times per week for OT, PT and SLP, respectively. There were 56 different therapeutic interventions performed. There was overlap in the interventions provided by different NICU therapists; however, interventions unique to each discipline were identified. More therapy was not related to better neurobehavioral outcomes, but rather more frequent therapy could be attributed to more complex medical conditions (p < 0.05). Conclusion Early therapy services in the NICU can start early in gestation and continue routinely until NICU discharge in order to optimize outcomes. These findings can aid our understanding of how neonatal therapy services are implemented in a level IV NICU.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-117
Number of pages10
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Volume64
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2017

Keywords

  • Development
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Preterm birth
  • Speech-language pathology

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