Aim: To summarise the quantity and quality of evidence for using music therapy for preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Methods: We performed an overview of evidence for the effectiveness and safety of MT for preterm infants in the NICU. We performed a random-effects meta-analysis of data from studies that fit the definition of MT.
Results: We identified 12 eligible systematic reviews and the methodological quality by AMSTAR-2 ranged from moderate to critically low. We identified 14 eligible randomised trials and 7 observational studies where the intervention fits the definition of MT. Meta-analysis of the RCTs showed that MT significantly decreases heart rate, mean difference (MD) (95% CI), -3.21 [-5.22, -1.19], respiratory rate, MD -2.93 [-5.65, -0.22], and maternal anxiety, MD -17.50 [-20.10, -14.90], and increases feeding volume, MD 29.59 [12.79, 46.38]. Long-term neurodevelopmental or safety outcomes were not reported. GRADE assessment of outcomes ranged from low to very low, downgraded for high risk of bias in the included studies, inconsistency and imprecision.
Conclusion: Low to very low certainty evidence suggests that MT in preterm infants improves short-term physiological parameters, feeding and maternal anxiety but safety and long-term outcomes were not reported.