Patency of the ductus arteriosus in the premature infant: is it pathologic? Should it be treated?

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Purpose of reviewThe ductus arteriosus is a vessel that connects the pulmonary artery to the aorta and provides a pulmonary-to-systemic diversion during fetal life. In the vast majority of infants, the ductus arteriosus closes by 3 days of life. In some infants, especially preterm infants with lung disease, there is delayed closure of the ductus arteriosus. There has been controversy as to whether or when the ductus arteriosus should be closed by either pharmacologic or surgical methods.Recent findingsThere have been several epidemiologic studies describing an association between a patent ductus arteriosus and the development of morbidities, such as chronic lung disease. These associations have suggested to some that a causal relationship exists between patency of the ductus arteriosus and chronic lung disease and other morbidities. However, recent metaanalyses of randomized, controlled trials of the use of indomethacin for the prevention and treatment of the patent ductus arteriosus have not documented a decrease in the incidence of these morbidities after treatment, despite success in closure of the patent ductus arteriosus.SummaryIn preterm infants, patency of the ductus arteriosus may represent a normal physiologic adaptation to allow shunting from either systemic-to-pulmonary circulation (eg, in the first day of life) or from pulmonary-to-systemic circulation (eg, in the presence of severe lung disease). Therapies designed to close the ductus arteriosus are contraindicated in some settings and should not be considered a standard of care at any time until these therapies are proven to decrease long-term clinical morbidities in randomized, placebo-controlled trials.

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