Patent ductus arteriosus: to treat or not to treat?

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Persistent patency of the ductus arteriosus in the preterm infant is associated with numerous morbidities, including higher rates of bronchopulmonary dysplasia and increased mortality. These strong associations have led to widespread use of cyclooxygenase inhibitors and surgical ligation to achieve ductal closure in the expectation that closing the ductus will reduce these complications. Each of these interventions has its own associated adverse effects. Neither individual randomised controlled trials nor meta-analyses of those trials have been able to demonstrate long-term benefits of these treatments despite their efficacy in inducing ductal closure and reducing the need for ductal ligation. Despite the potential shortcomings of those trials, they provide substantial cumulative evidence that early, routine treatment to close a persistently patent ductus arteriosus in preterm infants does not improve outcomes and should therefore be abandoned. Future trials of these interventions for patent ductus management should address different questions. Persistence of ductal patency should be considered a sign of rather than a direct cause of the several morbidities with which it is clearly associated. Practitioners should tolerate ductal patency and learn to manage its causes and consequences rather than focusing on achievement of ductal closure.

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