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Paediatr Drugs. 2013 Oct;15(5):363-76. doi: 10.1007/s40272-013-0031-7.

Clinical pharmacology of indomethacin in preterm infants: implications in patent ductus arteriosus closure.

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  • 1Section of Pharmacology, Department of Translational Research and New Technologies in Medicine and Surgery, Medical School, University of Pisa, via Roma 55, 56126, Pisa, Italy,


Indomethacin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is a potent inhibitor of prostaglandin E(2) synthesis. After birth, the ductus arteriosus closes spontaneously within 2-4 days in term infants. The major factor closing the ductus arteriosus is the tension of oxygen, which increases significantly after birth. Prostaglandin E(2) has the opposite effect to that of oxygen; it relaxes smooth muscle and tends to inhibit the closure of the ductus arteriosus. In preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome, the ductus arteriosus fails to close (patent ductus arteriosus [PDA]) because the concentration of prostaglandin E2 is relatively high. PDA occurs in more than 70 % of neonates weighing less than 1,500 g at birth. The aim of this article was to review the published data on the clinical pharmacology of indomethacin in preterm infants in order to provide a critical analysis of the literature and a useful tool for physicians. The bibliographic search was performed electronically using the PubMed and EMBASE databases as search engines and February 2012 was the cutoff point. A remarkable interindividual variability was observed for the half-life (t(½)), clearance (CL), and volume of distribution (V(d)) of indomethacin. Prophylactic indomethacin consists of a continuous infusion of low levels of indomethacin and may be useful in preterm infants. Extremely preterm infants are less likely to respond to indomethacin. Infants with a postnatal age of 2 months do not respond to treatment with indomethacin. Indomethacin has several adverse effects, the most common of which is renal failure. An increase in serum creatinine of ≥0.5 % mg/dL after indomethacin was observed in about 10-15 % of the patients and creatinine returns to a normal level about 1 week after cessation of therapy. Indomethacin should be administered intravenously by syringe pump for at least 30 min to minimize adverse effects on cerebral, gastrointestinal, and renal blood flow velocities. A prolonged course of indomethacin appears to reduce the risk of severe intracranial hemorrhage and renal impairment in patients with PDA. In conclusion, indomethacin is a useful drug to treat PDA.

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