Indomethacin in the treatment of premature labor. Effects on the fetal ductus arteriosus

N Engl J Med. 1988 Aug 11;319(6):327-31. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198808113190602.


Indomethacin is a potent agent in the treatment of premature labor, but its use has been limited because of concern about its constrictive effects on the fetal ductus arteriosus. To study these effects we used serial fetal echocardiography in 13 pregnant women in premature labor who received indomethacin according to three different dose schedules, ranging from 100 to 175 mg per day, for a maximum of 72 hours. The gestational ages of the fetuses ranged from 26.5 to 31.0 weeks. The detection of ductal constriction in 7 of the 14 fetuses by echocardiography led to the discontinuation of indomethacin. Three fetuses also had tricuspid regurgitation. There was no statistically significant difference between the mean (+/- SEM) gestational age of the fetuses with ductal constriction and that of those without constriction (29.3 +/- 0.59 and 28.4 +/- 0.52, respectively). There was no relation between serum indomethacin levels in the mothers and ductal constriction. In all seven fetuses affected, ductal constriction had resolved by the time they were restudied 24 hours after the discontinuation of indomethacin. Persistent fetal circulation was not detected in any of the 11 neonates studied after delivery. Indomethacin used to treat premature labor appears to cause transient constriction of the ductus arteriosus in some fetuses, even after short-term use.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Constriction, Pathologic
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ductus Arteriosus / drug effects*
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Fetal Heart / physiopathology
  • Fetus / drug effects*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Indomethacin / administration & dosage
  • Indomethacin / adverse effects*
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Tricuspid Valve Insufficiency / chemically induced


  • Indomethacin