A retrospective analysis of admissions to the NICU at JCMC Hospital in Johnson City, TN, from 1/2000 through 10/2004 was performed to determine if availability of methadone treatment centers in close proximity to the NE Tennessee region would result in an increase in symptomatic exposed newborns requiring NICU care.
Review of Table 1 demonstrates that since methadone treatment centers opened in close proximity to NE Tennessee in 2002, a significant increase in methadone-related admissions for symptomatic neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) occurred while admissions for other drug-related symptomatic neonates with Finnegan scores > 10 requiring sedation and monitoring have remained constant. Average length of stay (LOS) among infants recovering from fetal methadone exposure = 16.2 days (range: 6-54); average LOS among infants with symptomatic NAS due to other drugs = 17.3 days (range: 2-74). Methadone dosing during pregnancy was frequently increased during clinic visits. All methadone-exposed neonates required home apnea monitoring compared to 3/80 (4%) other drug-exposed newborns. Awareness of the risks of NAS among methadone-exposed newborns is critical among methadone clinic providers to minimize methadone fetal exposure during pregnancy and minimize postnatal drug effects on the newborn.