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Early Hum Dev. 2008 Jan;84(1):29-35. Epub 2007 Aug 28.

Adverse neurodevelopmental outcome of infants exposed to opiate in-utero.

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  • 1Department of Neonatal Medicine, The Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, VIC, Australia.


In-utero drug exposure is associated with increased risks of perinatal morbidity and mortality, however longer term neurodevelopmental outcome of survivors is poorly described.


The aims of this paper are: (1) to review the published literature which examines neurodevelopmental outcome in infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and (2) to report developmental follow-up data from a case-control study of babies exposed to opiate in-utero.


This study was conducted at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, NSW, through the multidisciplinary NAS service. Literature was reviewed after searching MEDLINE for relevant studies. Our own case-control study was conducted to examine neurodevelopmental outcome. A number of standardized neuropsychological tools were employed to assess these infants.


Results from previously published studies on outcome of infants with NAS were not reassuring as to reported 'normal development'. In our own case-control study, opiate-exposed infants were significantly more likely to have neurodevelopmental impairment compared to healthy control infants, when assessed at 18 months and 3 years of age.


Infants exposed to opiates in-utero are at increased risk of neurodevelopmental problems throughout early childhood.

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