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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Management: A Review of Recent Evidence

[ Vol. 12 , Issue. 4 ]


Matthew Grossman*, Carl Seashore and Alison Volpe Holmes   Pages 226 - 232 ( 7 )


Background: The evaluation and management of infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), the constellation of opioid withdrawal specific to newborns, have received renewed attention over the past decade during a new epidemic of opioid use, misuse, abuse, and dependence. Infants with NAS often endure long and costly hospital stays.

Objective: We aim to review recent literature on the management and outcomes of infants with, and at risk for, opioid withdrawal.

Methods: We reviewed articles indexed in PubMed over the past 5 years that examined interventions and/or outcomes related to the management of infants with NAS. Thirty-seven studies were included in our review comprising 8 categories: 1) identification of infants at risk for NAS, 2) prenatal factors, 3) evaluation of signs and symptoms, 4) non-pharmacologic care, including rooming-in and breastfeeding, 5) standardization of traditional protocols, 6) pharmacologic management, 7) alternative treatment approaches, and 8) long-term outcomes.

Results: Non-pharmacologic interventions, standardization of traditional protocols, and alternative treatment approaches were all associated with improved outcomes. Lengths of stay were generally lowest in the studies of non-pharmacologic interventions. Patients exposed to buprenorphine in utero tended to have better short-term outcomes than those exposed to methadone. Longer-term outcomes for infants with NAS appear to be worse than those of control groups.

Conclusion: The current epidemic necessitates both continued research, and the application of new evidence-based practices in the assessment and treatment of newborns exposed to opioids in utero. Projects focused on non-pharmacologic interventions appear to hold the most promise.


Drug withdrawal, infants, methadone, NAS, neonatal abstinence syndrome, opiate/opioid withdrawal, prenatal factors.


Department of Pediatrics, the Yale University School of Medicine, P.O. Box 208064 New Haven, CT 06520-8064, Department of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, Department of Pediatrics and of the Dartmouth Institute, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH

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