The effects on gut blood flow velocities of parenteral indomethacin (0.2 mg/kg) given either quickly as a bolus or slowly as an infusion were compared in consecutive studies of two groups of infants with symptomatic patent ductus arteriosus. In the presence of patent ductus arteriosus the range of velocities in the superior mesenteric artery before indomethacin was given was characterised by pronounced abnormalities including absent--or in some cases even retrograde--diastolic flow. In eight subjects the first rapidly given bolus dose of indomethacin (duration 20 seconds or less) caused a pronounced and sustained fall in the velocity of the superior mesenteric artery blood flow (mean peak systolic velocity (cm/second): before 74; after 38; median time to maximum fall 7.4 minutes; median time to recovery 50 minutes). A further 10 subjects received their first dose of indomethacin by slow infusion (duration 30-35 min) and the percentage fall in peak systolic velocity was both substantially less (22% compared with 47%) and later (median time to maximum fall 37.3 minutes) than after rapid infusion. Qualitatively similar but smaller changes were seen in the coeliac axis. Return of antegrade end diastolic flow in the superior mesenteric artery within one hour of the first dose of indomethacin was a good predictor of subsequent closure of the ductus. These data suggest that there is a profound disturbance in mid gut perfusion in infants with patent ductus, which is exacerbated by indomethacin given rapidly by intravenous bolus. They may also provide a rational explanation for the well recognised association between necrotising enterocolitis and both patent ductus arteriosus and indomethacin administration. The unwanted effects of the indomethacin are abrogated by slow infusion, without loss of efficacy in closure of the ductus.
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