The effects of prenatal exposure to buprenorphine or methadone on infant visual evoked potentials

Justine N. Whitham, Nicola J. Spurrier, Michael G. Sawyer, Peter A. Baghurst, John E. Taplin, Jason M. White, Andrea L. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


This study compared the neurological development of 4 month old infants exposed to buprenorphine or methadone during pregnancy to that of a control group of non-exposed infants. Participants were 30 buprenorphine-maintained women, 22 methadone-maintained women and 33 non opioid-dependent controls, and their infants. Women were enrolled during pregnancy as part of an open-label non-randomised flexible-dosing longitudinal study. Groups were matched for maternal age, parity, gravida, and tobacco and alcohol use. Infant neurological development was assessed by measuring latency of pattern reversal visual evoked potentials (VEP). One-way between groups analyses of variance (ANOVA) were conducted to test the statistical significance of differences between the mean latencies of the peak response to two different sized checkerboard patterns (48′ and 69′ of retinal arc). Infants prenatally exposed to methadone had significantly prolonged latencies, compared with infants in the control group and infants prenatally exposed to buprenorphine, in response to checks of 48′ and 69′. VEP latencies of infants prenatally exposed to buprenorphine did not differ significantly from controls for either check size. After adjustment for covariates, prenatal exposure to methadone remained a significant predictor of VEP response to checks of 48′, but not 69′. Maternal self-reported used of marijuana during pregnancy made a significant unique contribution to the variance in P1 latencies for both check sizes. Data from this controlled, non-randomised study suggest that buprenorphine may confer an advantage over methadone as a maintenance drug during pregnancy in terms of infant neural development at 4 months of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-288
Number of pages9
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Buprenorphine
  • Infant development
  • Methadone
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal opioid exposure
  • VEP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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