To combine meta-analyses of multiple long-term outcomes in children prenatally exposed to methadone or buprenorphine through their mothers’ Opioid maintenance therapy (OMT) with a systematic review of similar outcomes in experimental animals.
The Medline, Embase, Web of Science, CINAHL, Cochrane and Epistemonikos databases were searched through August 30, 2018. Clinical studies measuring effects on cognitive, behavioral or visual outcomes in 3 months or older children prenatally exposed to OMT and control group(s) were included for meta-analyses. Experimental animal studies with similar exposures and outcomes were included in a systematic review. The three authors independently performed abstract screenings and full-text reviews, and extracted the data. One author performed the meta-analyses.
The pooled results of the meta-analyses showed worse cognitive, psychomotor, behavioral, attentional and executive functioning, and affected vision in children born to mothers who were in OMT during pregnancy compared to children without prenatal drug exposure (overall effect size = 0.49, 95% confidence interval = 0.38, 0.59, p < 0.00001). Many of the experimental animal studies showed impaired outcomes after prenatal exposure to methadone or buprenorphine. The clinical results may be biased, e.g., with the OMT group having more concurrent risk factors than the unexposed comparison group. There are few studies of older children.
Children born to mothers in OMT show worse outcomes for a number of different behaviors and impaired vision compared to children born to nonusers. Experimental animal studies indicate that there might be a causal relationship between prenatal methadone or buprenorphine exposure and subsequent negative outcomes.

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