From 2009 to 2013, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) doubled in the United States. To help determine the cause for the increase, a recent study reviewed the risks of NAS on infants whose mothers underwent surgery during pregnancy.
What is NAS?
NAS is a medical condition that refers to the problems infants can face upon birth if exposed to narcotics while in utero. Although commonly connected to cocaine use, it is important to note that this syndrome can also result from legal, prescription medications.
This study focused specifically on the risk of NAS in infants whose mothers received prescription medication to manage pain that was the result of a required prenatal surgical procedure.
What did the research reveal about NAS risk after prenatal maternal surgery?
The researchers found an increased risk of NAS in infants after prenatal maternal surgery when the mother was prescribed opioids for pain management. Although true for all surgical procedures, cardiac, neuro and urological surgical procedures presented the highest risk.
What risks are present for infants who suffer from NAS?
Researchers have linked NAS with an increased risk of the infant suffering birth defects and seizures. Symptoms vary with each case, but often include trembling, excessive crying, tight muscle tone and an unstable temperature. The proper course for treatment depends on the severity of the syndrome. The infant’s treating physician may use medication to manage seizures. Most infants will require additional caloric intake and comfort, often aided with swaddling.
Even later in life, infants who suffered NAS can develop neurological and behavioral disorders as well as an increased risk of infection and ophthalmological disorders.
Mothers who were prescribed opioids for pain management during pregnancy and are concerned their infant may suffer NAS are wise to seek legal counsel to discuss potential legal remedies. Legal remedies could include monetary awards to help cover the costs associated with additional care throughout the infant’s lifetime.