Predictors of neonatal abstinence syndrome in buprenorphine exposed newborn: can cord blood buprenorphine metabolite levels help?

Springerplus. 2016 Jun 23;5(1):854. doi: 10.1186/s40064-016-2576-8. eCollection 2016.


Background: Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid used for the treatment of opioid dependence. Opioid use, including buprenorphine, has been increasing in recent years, in the general population and in pregnant women. Consequently, there has been a rise in frequency of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), associated with buprenorphine use during pregnancy. The purpose of this study was to investigate correlations between buprenorphine and buprenorphine-metabolite concentrations in cord blood and onset of NAS in buprenorphine exposed newborns.

Methods: Nineteen (19) newborns who met inclusion criteria were followed after birth until discharge in a double-blind non-intervention study, after maternal consent. Cord blood and tissue samples were collected and analyzed by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) for buprenorphine and metabolites. Simple and multiple logistic regressions were used to examine relationships between buprenorphine and buprenorphine metabolite concentrations in cord blood and onset of NAS, need for morphine therapy, and length of stay.

Results: Each increase in 5 ng/ml level of norbuprenorphine in cord blood increases odds of requiring treatment by morphine 2.5 times. Each increase in 5 ng/ml of buprenorphine-glucuronide decreases odds of receiving morphine by 57.7 %. Along with concentration of buprenorphine metabolites, birth weight and gestational age also play important roles, but not maternal buprenorphine dose.

Conclusions: LC-MS analysis of cord blood concentrations of buprenorphine and metabolites is an effective way to examine drug and metabolite levels in the infant at birth. Cord blood concentrations of the active norbuprenorphine metabolite and the inactive buprenorphine-glucuronide metabolite show promise in predicting necessity of treatment of NAS. These finding have implications in improving patient care and reducing healthcare costs if confirmed in a larger sample.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; Cord blood; Metabolites; NAS; Neonatal abstinence syndrome.