Integrated Review of the Assessment of Newborns With Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs
08 June 2021
Objective: To critically review and summarize current knowledge regarding the assessment of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
Data sources: We searched the following databases for articles on the assessment of newborns with NAS that were published in English between January 2014 and June 2020: PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycINFO. Keywords and Medical Subject Heading terms used to identify relevant research articles included neonatal abstinence syndrome; Finnegan Scale; eat, sleep, console; epigenetics; genetics; pharmacokinetics; and measurement. We independently reviewed articles for inclusion.
Study selection: We retrieved 435 articles through database searches and 17 through manual reference searches; 31 articles are included in the final review. Excluded articles were duplicates, not relevant to NAS, qualitative studies, and/or of low quality.
Data extraction: We used the methodology of Whittemore and Knafl to guide this integrative review. We extracted and organized data under the following headings: author, year and country, purpose, study design, participants, measurement, biomarker (if applicable), results, limitations, recommendations, and intervention.
Data synthesis: The Finnegan Neonatal Abstinence Scale is the most widely used instrument to measure symptoms of NAS in newborns, although it is very subjective. Recently, there has been a transition from the Finnegan Neonatal Abstinence Scale to the eat, sleep, console method, which consists of structured assessment and intervention and has been shown to decrease length of hospital stay and total opioid treatment dose. Researchers examined biomarkers of NAS, including genetic markers and autonomic nervous system responses, on the variation in incidence and differential severity of NAS. In the included articles, women with opioid use disorder who were treated with naltrexone during pregnancy gave birth to newborns without NAS diagnoses. However, most women who were treated with buprenorphine gave birth to newborns with NAS diagnoses.
Conclusion: NAS negatively affects newborns in a multitude of ways, and the objective assessment and measurement of the newborn's response to withdrawal remains understudied and needs further investigation.
Keywords: Finnegan scale; Sleep; console; eat; epigenetics; neonatal abstinence syndrome; pharmacokinetics.