How to manage the preterm patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) remains a conundrum. On the one hand, physiology and statistical association with adverse outcomes suggest that it is pathological. On the other hand, clinical trials of treatment strategies have failed to show any long-term benefit. Ultrasound studies of PDA have suggested that the haemodynamic impact may be much earlier after birth than previously thought (in the first hours); however, we still do not know when to treat PDA. Studies that have tested symptomatic or pre-symptomatic treatment are mainly historical and have not tested the effect of no treatment. Prophylactic treatment is the best-studied regimen but improvements in some short-term outcomes do not translate to any difference in longer-term outcomes. Neonatologists have been reluctant to engage in trials that test treatment against almost never treating. Observations of very early postnatal haemodynamic significance suggest that targeting treatment on the basis of the early postnatal constrictive response of the duct may optimize benefits. A pilot trial of this strategy showed reduction in the incidence of pulmonary haemorrhage but more trials of this strategy are needed.
Keywords: Ductus arteriosus; Ibuprofen; Indomethacin; Infant premature; Systemic blood flow; Ultrasound.
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