Newborns exposed to methadone in utero demonstrated abnormal visual evoked potentials, suggesting delayed visual maturation, according to a study.
Such infants should be considered for early clinical visual assessment, the study authors said.
The prospective cohort study examined flash visual evoked potentials (VEPs) of 150 healthy infants. The mothers of 100 of the infants were considered drug misusers who had been prescribed substitute methadone during pregnancy. The other 50 infants were matched for birth weight, gestation and socioeconomic deprivation. Flash VEPs were recorded within 3 days of birth.
Infants exposed to drugs in utero demonstrated a significantly more immature VEP waveform (P < .001) with a significantly smaller overall amplitude (P < .001) when compared with the control group.
The study noted that most infants had been exposed to illicit drugs as well as the prescribed methadone but that the association with the prescribed methadone remained despite accounting for factors such as in utero alcohol exposure and maternal cigarette smoking.