Naloxone for narcotic-exposed newborn infants

W McGuire, P W Fowlie
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, (4): CD003483

BACKGROUND: Naloxone, a specific opiate antagonist, is available for the management of newborn infants with respiratory depression that may be due to transplacentally-acquired opiates. However, it is unclear which groups of newborn infants may benefit from this therapy, and whether naloxone has any harmful effects.

OBJECTIVES: In newborn infants who have been exposed trans-placentally to narcotics, does naloxone reduce the need for, or duration of, ventilatory support or neonatal unit admission.

SEARCH STRATEGY: The standard search strategy of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group was used. This included electronic searches of the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2002), MEDLINE (1966 - February 2002), EMBASE (1988 - February 2002), and previous reviews including cross references.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials comparing the administration of naloxone versus placebo, or no drug, or another dose of naloxone, to newborn infants with suspected or confirmed trans-placental exposure to narcotics.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were extracted using the standard methods of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group, with separate evaluation of trial quality and data extraction by each author and synthesis of data using relative risk, risk difference and weighted mean difference.

MAIN RESULTS: We found nine trials that compared the effects of naloxone versus placebo or no drug in newborn infants exposed to maternal narcotic analgesia prior to delivery. The main outcomes reported were measures of respiratory function in the first six hours of life. Although we found some evidence that naloxone increases alveolar ventilation, we did not find any data on the pre-specified primary outcomes of this review: the need for assisted mechanical ventilation or admission to a neonatal unit.

REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: There is a need for a randomised controlled trial to determine if naloxone confers any clinically important benefits to newborn infants with respiratory depression that may be due to trans-placentally acquired narcotic.

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