Research Horizons


Follow-Up Crucial After Fetal Opioid Exposure

Infants exposed to opioids in utero show a greater incidence of torticollis, an abnormal twisting of the neck, and plagiocephaly, a flattening of the head often seen with torticollis.

In a study published online Jan. 22, 2018, in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers followed 783 children over five years. Eighty-seven (11.1 percent) of those born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome from opioid exposure in utero were diagnosed with torticollis. The rate in the general population is under 2 percent.

“Awareness of these issues is essential, as torticollis may not develop for several months after the infant is discharged from the hospital,” says study author Jenny McAllister, MD. Occupational and physical therapy can prevent the problems, and their associated developmental delays.

McAllister, who co-directs our Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Long-Term Follow-Up Clinic, says it is not known whether opioid exposure caused the torticollis. The infants might have had muscle tightness that predisposed them to torticollis, or it could have resulted from swaddling to keep them calm after birth.

Publication Information
Original title: Torticollis in Infants with a History of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
Published in: The Journal of Pediatrics
Publish date: Jan. 22, 2018
Read the study

Research By

Jennifer McAllister, MD
Medical Director, NICU Follow Up Clinic-NAS Clinic
McAllister's research investigates the short and long term outcomes of babies diagnosed with NAS. She is interested in standardizing and optimizing care for newborns with NAS both inpatient and upon discharge from the hospital