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Colin O'Reilly DO, FAAP, FACOP, FCCM
Chief of Inpatient Services;
Medical Director of Long Term Care
Children's Specialized Hospital


 

Q:
 
 
What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and how does it affect children?
A:
   

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a combination of neurological and behavioral signs and symptoms seen following birth in infants prenatally exposed to opioids. The type and severity of the withdrawal depends on the drugs that were taken, how long and how often, the mother's break-down of the drug and whether the infant was born full-term or prematurely. 

The effects of maternal substance abuse can be long term and may include premature birth, low birth weight and growth, birth defects, SIDS, respiratory distress, seizures, developmental delays and learning disabilities. 

Q:
   
Which drugs are considered to cause NAS?
A:
   

Opiate drugs such as morphine, heroin, methadone, fentanyl, codeine, oxycodone and buprenorphine are some of the drugs that cause neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Q:
   
Approximately how many babies are born with NAS in New Jersey?
A:
   

Opioid and drug abuse is on the rise and as a result we are definitely seeing an increased number of newborns who've been exposed prenatally to these harmful drugs. In 2016, New Jersey reported 685 cases of NAS and this year, that number is expected to reach over 800. With the opioid epidemic we are facing, and the growing number of cases, the demand for the NAS program continues to grow. It is our hope that any mother and baby in need will have access to this specialized care at our hospital.

Q:
 
 
What's does treatment typically entail for an infant diagnosed with NAS?
A:
   

Upon admission, infants at risk for NAS are carefully monitored by highly skilled clinicians for signs consistent with withdrawal and development. Based on the results of ongoing assessments, our team provides innovative programming and expert care based on each young patient's individual needs, helping them to achieve the greatest outcomes. This includes using positive sensory inputs such as swaddling, therapeutic touch and handling, and vestibular sensations like rocking. Medically, we manage the tapering and discontinuation of medications; monitor weight gain, growth charts and nutrition; implement aquatic and physical therapies to help increase range of motion; and use occupational therapy and infant massage for self-calming and visual motor stimulation. 

We also encourage parents or caregivers to room with the infants. Parental bonding and family involvement during treatment helps to promote infant growth, decreases the length of stay, provides opportunities for education, development of daily routines to support regulation, all of which are important for a smooth transition to go home once ready.

Q:
   
What happens after a child has completed the program?
A:
   

After an infant has completed the NAS Program, our team of clinicians helps prepare parents and caregivers for discharge. They are given training in administering medication, feeding and CPR. Additionally, we continue the relationship with parents and caregivers once at home as well to ensure proper care is being provided and to monitor the child's progress.

Q:
   
How can someone support Children's Specialized Hospital's NAS Program?
A:
   

Donations received from #GivingTuesday will go directly to the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Program at Children’s Specialized Hospital.  Our team of doctors will be able to continue treating the growing numbers of newborns who come to our hospital in need of the specialized treatment to wean them off of drugs in the midst of this opioid epidemic.

Additionally, we will increase our outreach so that any mother or baby who needs our help has access to our care.  This early intervention is incredibly important for the babies exposed in utero to these harmful drugs who so desperately need our help. Our team will also continue researching how to best care for the infants in our program. We know they are prone to a variety of developmental disabilities and early intervention is key to their treatment and recovery.

       
       

Dr. O’Reilly graduated with a Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine from The University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed both his Pediatric Residency and Pediatric Critical Care Fellowship at The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He served as an Attending Critical Care Physician at Atlantic Health, in Morristown, New Jersey, where he also created and served as Medical Director of the Pediatric Palliative Care Service for the health system. Dr. O’Reilly received hospice and palliative care training at Harvard Medical School and has duel board certifications in General Pediatrics from The American Board of Pediatrics and The American Osteopathic Board of Pediatrics. He is board certified in Pediatric Critical Care by the American Board of Pediatrics as well as certified in Hospice and Palliative Care Medicine by the American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine. 

 
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