Physiological effects of a single chest physiotherapy session in mechanically ventilated and extubated preterm neonates


OBJECTIVE: To assess the changes on various physiological cardio-respiratory parameters with a single chest physiotherapy session in mechanically ventilated and extubated preterm neonates with respiratory distress syndrome.
STUDY DESIGN: This is a prospective observational study in a neonatal intensive care unit setting. Sixty preterm neonates with respiratory distress syndrome, thirty mechanically ventilated and thirty extubated preterm neonates requiring chest physiotherapy were enrolled in the study. Parameters like heart rate (HR), respiratory rate (RR), Silverman Anderson score (SA score in extubated), oxygen saturation (SpO2 ) and auscultation findings were noted just before, immediately after chest physiotherapy but before suctioning, immediately after suctioning and after 5 minutes of the session.
RESULTS: The mean age of neonates was 9.55±5.86 days and mean birth weight was 1550±511.5 g. As there was no significant difference in the change in parameters on intergroup comparison, further analysis was done considering two groups together (n = 60) except for SA score. As SA score was measured only in extubated neonates. HR did not change significantly during chest physiotherapy compared to the baseline but significantly decreased after 15 minutes (p = 0.01). RR and SA score significantly increased after suctioning (p = 0.014) but reduced after 15 minutes (p = <0.0001). SpO2 significantly reduced post-suctioning compared to the baseline and increased after positioning and 15 minutes of chest physiotherapy (p = <0.0001). Clinically, there was a reduction in HR, RR and SA score with an improvement in SpO2 . This signifies that chest physiotherapy may help facilitate the overall well-being of a fragile preterm neonate. Lung auscultation finding suggests that after suctioning, there was a significant reduction in crepitation (p = 0.0000) but significant increase in crepitation after 15 minutes (p = <0.01), suggesting the importance of around-the-clock chest physiotherapy.
CONCLUSION: Chest physiotherapy is safe in preterm neonates. Suctioning causes significant cardio-respiratory parameter changes, but within normal physiological range. Thus, chest physiotherapy should be performed with continuous monitoring only when indicated and not as a routine procedure. More research is needed to study the long term effects of chest physical therapy. 

*Corresponding Author: 

Yesha Devang Mehta, 8121 Fountain Springs Dr., Plano, TX 75025, USA. Tel.: +1 806 283 7991; E-mail: