Ibuprofen Said Helpful to Preemies

Wednesday, July 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Ibuprofen works just as well as a drug used to cure a blood-vessel problem common in premature babies and is less likely to cause a dangerous side effect, researchers reported Tuesday.

The study was released by the New England Journal of Medicine two months before its Sept. 7 publication because of its potential value for treatment.

The study, by doctors at five Belgian intensive care units for newborns, compared ibuprofen to a drug called indomethacin for closing the short duct which lets blood bypass the lungs before birth.

Because fetuses do not breathe, blood does not need to flow through the artery which pumps blood into the lungs to pick up oxygen.

Instead, just outside the heart, it is shunted from that artery through a very short link to the aorta, the big artery which carries oxygen-laden blood to the body.

Normally, this closes within a day or two after birth.

However, it often stays open in premature babies. Blood which should go to the body returns to the underdeveloped lungs, which can be overloaded along with the heart.

As many as one-third of all premature babies have the problem and rates are higher among babies weighing two pounds or less, said Dr. Brian Barkemeyer, head of neonatology at the Louisiana State University Medical Center.

Indomethacin often is used to close the connection. But it can keep the kidneys from producing enough urine — a condition called oliguria — which disrupts sodium chloride and potassium levels in the body, Barkemeyer said.

Doctors at five intensive care centers for newborns gave intravenous ibuprofen to 74 premature babies whose health was endangered by the heart problem, called patent ductus arteriosus. They gave intravenous indomethacin to 74 others.

The connection closed in about the same number of babies: 49 given indomethacin, and 52 given ibuprofen, or about 66 percent to 70 percent.

Only five babies treated with ibuprofen had the kidney problem, compared with 14 treated with indomethacin, wrote the lead author, Dr. Bart Van Overmeire of University Hospital Antwerp.

Other side effects were about the same for both drugs.


On the Net:

New England Journal of Medicine: http://www.nejm.org

Explanation of patent ductus arteriosus: http://www.pedisurg.com/PtEduc/PDA.htm