Healing Touch (HT) performed on adult acute leukemia patients led to significant short-term improvements in fatigue and nausea, as reported in a recent pilot study.

The study, “Healing Touch as a Supportive Intervention for Adult Acute Leukemia Patients: A Pilot Investigation of Effects on Distress and Symptoms,” involved 12 adult acute leukemia patients who were in the hospital for chemotherapy.

Researchers looked at the feasibility of using HT in this setting, as well as the effects of this energy-based intervention. According to the study’s authors, HT is based on compassionate intention directed through light touch or placement of hands just off the body.

During the study, subjects received nine 30-minute sessions of HT throughout a three-week period. The intervention began in the second week of each patient’s hospital stay, with three sessions per week. HT was conducted in the patient’s hospital room.

A standard HT noninvasive technique was used with all patients. This involved the practitioner mentally setting an intention for the patient’s highest good and then conducting a set sequence of hand positions, progressing from the ankles to the top of the head. The practitioner would place his or her hands either lightly touching or several inches above the patient’s covered body for one minute at each position.

Subjects in the study completed two sets of self-report questionnaires and three brief ratings of fatigue, nausea, pain and overall distress at baseline (within seven days of hospital admission) and five weeks later.

In addition, the patients completed a single-item rating of current fatigue, nausea, distress and pain immediately before and after the second HT session of the week for all three weeks.

Results of the study revealed the use of HT for adult acute leukemia patients within the hospital setting to be entirely feasible, in terms of both recruitment and retention. Researchers received significant positive feedback from the 12 subjects in this study.

Among the reported patient benefits were significant improvements in both fatigue and nausea immediately after the HT intervention.

“Even with this very small sample, fatigue and nausea demonstrated significant pre-post session decreases [and] trends toward significance were noted for distress and pain,” state the study’s authors. “These findings did not suggest evidence for the long-term effects of the HT intervention but rather suggest immediate relief of some cancer treatment-related side effects.”

The researchers recommend a larger study to further investigate the benefits of HT for inpatient adults with acute leukemia.

Authors: Suzanne C. Danhauer, Janet A. Tooze, Paige Holder, Christina Miller, Michelle T. Jesse, Suzanne Carroll, Deborah Larrimore, Cassie R. Campbell and Kathi J. Kemper.

Sources: Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Hematology and Oncology, Biostatistical Sciences, Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Pediatrics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Wake Forest University Health Sciences; University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Department of Nursing, North Carolina Baptist Hospital; and Healing Touch of the Carolinas. Originally published in Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology (summer 2008) 6 (3): 89-97.