Context: Recent evidence suggests that osteopathic manipulative treatment of somatic dysfunction in newborns may decrease complications and hospital length of stay. Such dysfunction may result from external forces related to the birth process, but its incidence is unknown.
Objective: To identify the incidence and patterns of somatic dysfunction in healthy newborns at least 6 hours after birth and to correlate those findings with maternal and labor history, gestational age, and findings of the initial newborn assessment performed immediately after birth.
Methods: Healthy newborns aged 6 to 72 hours were physically examined and assessed for somatic dysfunction, including asymmetry and motion restriction of the cranial, cervical, lumbar, and sacral regions. The total somatic dysfunction identified was summarized in a somatic dysfunction severity score (SDSS), calculated by assigning 1 point for each identified finding; the SDSS could range from 0 (no somatic dysfunction) to 34 (all somatic dysfunctions assessed present). Findings were correlated with maternal and newborn characteristics and labor history. Descriptive analyses were performed, and findings were compared between the initial newborn assessment and the research examination.
Results: One hundred newborns were examined (mean gestational age, 38.5 weeks). In 99 newborns (99%), at least 1 sphenobasilar synchondrosis strain pattern was present, with sidebending rotations being the most common (present in 63 newborns [63%]). Condylar compression was found in 95 newborns (95%), temporal bone restrictions in 85 (85%), motion restriction of at least 1 cervical vertebral segment in 91 (91%) and at least 1 lumbar vertebral segment in 94 (94%), and a posterior sacral base in 80 (80%). The SDSS was not associated with mode of delivery or labor augmentation (P=.49 and P=.54, respectively), but it was positively associated with the duration of labor; each 1-hour increase in labor increased the predicted SDSS by 0.12 points (P=.04).
Conclusion: Somatic dysfunction of the cranial, cervical, lumbar, and sacral regions was common in healthy newborns, and the total somatic dysfunction (SDSS) was related to the length of labor. (ClinicalTrials.gov number NCT01496872).