Differential effects of massage and heelstick procedures on transcutaneous oxygen tension in preterm neonates

Connie Johnson Morrow, Tiffany M. Field, Frank A. Scafidi, Jacqueline Roberts, Lisa Eisen, Sandra K. Larson, Anne E. Hogan, Emmalee S. Bandstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The present study investigated the differential effects of heelsticks and tactile-kinesthetic massage on transcutaneous oxygen tension (TcPO2) in preterm infants. The sample was comprised of 37 stabilized preterm neonates from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. During the heelstick procedure, TcPO2 significantly declined an average of 14 mmHg. When compared to the tactile-kinesthetic massage, TcPO2 levels during the heelstick (M = 39.8) were significantly lower than during the stimulation (M = 72.8). Mean TcPO2 levels remained clinically safe during the four massage sessions evaluated. The TcPO2 levels during kinesthetic stimulation were somewhat more varied, and movement and pressurization of the TcPO2 electrode were investigated as possible artifactual explanations for this phenomenon. Overall, the findings indicate that social forms of touch such as tactile-kinesthetic massage do not appear to have a medically compromising effect on TcPO2 in the preterm neonate. These findings are evaluated in relation to the "minimal touch" policy, and implications for future handling of the stabilized preterm neonate are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-414
Number of pages18
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991


  • heelsticks
  • infants
  • massage
  • neonate
  • preterm
  • stimulation
  • tactile-kinesthetic
  • TcPO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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