Ibuprofen for the treatment of patent ductus arteriosus in preterm and/or low birth weight infants

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jan 23:(1):CD003481. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003481.pub3.


Background: A patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) complicates the clinical course of preterm infants, increasing their risks of developing chronic lung disease (CLD), necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), and intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). Indomethacin is used as standard therapy to close a PDA, but is associated with reduced blood flow to the brain, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. Ibuprofen, another cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor, may be as effective as indomethacin, with fewer side effects.

Objectives: To determine the effectiveness and safety of ibuprofen compared to placebo or no intervention for closing a PDA in preterm and/or low birth weight infants. To determine the effectiveness and safety of ibuprofen compared to other cyclo-oxygenase inhibitors (including indomethacin, mefenamic acid) for closing a PDA in preterm and/or low birth weight infants.

Search strategy: Randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing ibuprofen to placebo or indomethacin or mefenamic acid for therapy of PDA were identified by searching the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2007), MEDLINE (1996 - August 2007), CINAHL (1982 - August 2007), EMBASE (1980 - August 2007), reference lists of published RCTs and abstracts from the Pediatric Academic Societies and the European Society for Pediatric Research meetings published in Pediatric Research (1991 - April 2005) or on their website (to August 2007). No language restrictions were applied.

Selection criteria: 1) DESIGN: Randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials2) POPULATION: Preterm (< 37 weeks gestational age) or low birth weight infants (< 2500 g) with a clinically or echocardiographically diagnosed PDA3) INTERVENTION: Administration of ibuprofen (orally or intravenously) for the closure of PDA4) OUTCOMES: At least one of the following outcomes were reported: failure to close a PDA, mortality, surgical ductal ligation, intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH), periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), NEC, decreased urine output, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), chronic lung disease (CLD), sepsis, pulmonary hemorrhage, pulmonary hypertension, duration of supplementary oxygen, duration of mechanical ventilation, duration of hospital stay, and serum creatinine levels following treatment.

Data collection and analysis: At least two review authors worked independently at each step of the original review, then compared results and resolved differences. The current update was conducted by one review author (AO). Methodological quality of eligible studies was assessed according to blinding of randomization, of intervention and of outcome assessment, and completeness of follow up. Weighted treatment effects, calculated using RevMan 4.2.10, included typical relative risk (RR), typical risk difference (RD), number needed to treat to benefit (NNT) or harm (NNH), and weighted mean difference (WMD), all with 95% confidence intervals (CI). A fixed effect model was used for meta-analyses. Heterogeneity tests including the I-squared test (I(2)) were performed to assess the appropriateness of pooling the data.

Main results: No studies using mefenamic acid were identified. Sixteen studies enrolling 876 infants were identified. Four additional trials were identified for this update and two studies published as abstracts were now available as full articles. One study compared ibuprofen to placebo, but the results were not reported unblinded to intervention group. Fifteen studies including 740 infants compared the effectiveness of ibuprofen to indomethacin for the closure of a PDA. For the primary outcome (failure of ductal closure), there was no statistically significant difference between ibuprofen and indomethacin groups [typical RR 0.99 (95% CI 0.78, 1.27); typical RD 0.00 (95% CI -0.06, 0.06)]. There were no statistically significant differences in mortality, reopening of the ductus, need for surgical duct ligation, duration of ventilator support, duration of supplementary oxygen, pulmonary hemorrhage, pulmonary hypertension, CLD, IVH, PVL, NEC, intestinal perforation, gastrointestinal bleed, time to full enteral feeds, time to regain birth weight, ROP, sepsis, duration of hospitalization. Ibuprofen treatment was associated with statistically significantly lower serum creatinine levels after treatment (6 trials, 336 infants; WMD - 8.2 (95% CI -13.3, -3.2) mmol/L and lower incidence of 'decreased urine output' [3 trials, 336 infants; typical RR; 0.22 (95% CI 0.09, 0.51); typical RD -0.12 (95% CI -0.18, -0.06); NNT 8 (95% CI 6,17)]. There was moderate heterogeneity of treatment effect for the outcomes 'time to regain birth weight' and 'decreased urine output". Heterogeneity was not noted for other outcomes. For several of these outcomes, the sample size was small and the estimates imprecise. There are not enough data available regarding the effectiveness of oral ibuprofen compared with indomethacin to close a PDA [3 trials, 69 infants; typical RR 1.41 (95% CI 0.68, 2.93); typical RD 0.10 (95% CI -0.10, 0.30)]. Pulmonary hypertension was noted in one infant receiving ibuprofen to close a PDA enrolled in a trial in this review and an additional report of such a case was identified from the literature.

Authors' conclusions: No statistically significant difference in the effectiveness of ibuprofen compared to indomethacin in closing a PDA was found. Ibuprofen compared with indomethacin reduces the risk of oliguria and is associated with lower serum creatinine levels following treatment. Pulmonary hypertension has been observed in three infants after prophylactic use of ibuprofen and one infant receiving ibuprofen for treatment in this review developed pulmonary hypertension. One additional case of pulmonary hypertension following treatment with ibuprofen to close a PDA was identified from the literature. The available data support the use of either drug for the treatment of a PDA. As both drugs are equally effective in closing a PDA, the clinician needs to weigh the potential side effects of one drug vs. the other when making a decision which drug to use. The most urgent research question to be answered is whether ibuprofen compared to indomethacin confers an improved rate of intact survival (survival without impairment) at 18 months corrected age and at the age of school entry.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Ductus Arteriosus, Patent / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / adverse effects
  • Ibuprofen / therapeutic use*
  • Indomethacin / adverse effects
  • Indomethacin / therapeutic use
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Ibuprofen
  • Indomethacin