Opioids, methadone and babies

Aug. 9, 2023
A Children’s Hospital Los Angeles study shows that methadone use following surgery in infants can increase hospital stay and delay recovery.

Whatever the opioid crisis calls to mind, it likely isn’t pacifiers and diapers. But when 1 out of every 5 hospitalized infants receives opioids, and when some infants require methadone treatment, it’s time to widen the scope. A new study led by pediatric surgeons at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles shows that methadone use after surgery can prolong a baby’s recovery and increase an infant’s dependence on ventilators and intravenous (IV) nutrition. 

In her latest study, published in JAMA Network Open, Lorraine Kelley-Quon, MD, MSHS, a pediatric surgeon at CHLA examined how methadone use impacted recovery in infants. The study included over 2,000 babies from 48 children’s hospitals who were surgically treated for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening inflammatory condition that can develop in premature newborns. While rare, NEC is the most common reason for emergency surgery in newborn babies.

The findings: Babies who required methadone needed to stay in the hospital an average of 21 days longer after surgery. They also required more days on the ventilator and longer reliance on IV nutrition.

CHLA release

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