Home > Neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Coghlan, D and Milner, M and Clarke, T and Lambert, I and McDermott, C and McNally, M and Beckett, M (1999) Neonatal abstinence syndrome. Irish Medical Journal, 92, (1), pp. 232-233.

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A 12 month review of infants admitted with neonatal abstinence syndrome to a neonatal intensive care unit was undertaken. The relationship of maternal drug abuse to symptoms, the effectiveness of pharmacologic agents in controlling symptoms and the length of inpatient stay were investigated.

A retrospective review of maternal and infant records was performed. Those infants with a serial Finnegan score greater than 8 were treated. Pharmacologic treatment was oral morphine sulphate (0.2 mg 4-6 hourly), phenobarbitone (3-7 mgs/kg/day), or combination of the above. 43 infants were admitted to the hospital during the year. The average maternal age was 24.6 years, (18-34 years). Drug use volunteered by the mothers was methadone alone in 6 cases, methadone and benzodiazepines in 14, methadone and heroin and benzodiazepines in 7, methadone and heroin in 10, heroin alone in 2, and other multiple drug use including oral morphine sulphate, dothiepin and cannabis in 4.

Average gestational age was 40.3 (35-42 weeks). The average birthweight was 2.81 kgs (1.89-3.91 kgs). Time to onset of withdrawal symptoms was 2.8 (1-13) days. The duration of pharmacologic treatment (oral morphine sulphate and/or phenobarbitone) was 21.8 (1-62) days. The total hospital stay for the 43 infants was 1,011 days. This study confirms that polydrug abuse is the commonest type of drug abuse in Dublin. The duration of withdrawal symptoms is loosely related to drug type, but increasing duration of symptoms is noted for infants exposed to benzodiazepines. Our experience would favour the use of morphine sulphate to treat pure opiate withdrawal symptoms. Over the 12-month period, there was an average occupancy of 3 beds per day in the paediatric department.

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