Persistent patency of the arterial duct represents one of the most common lesions in the field of congenital cardiac disease. The strategies for management continue to evolve. In this review, we focus on management beyond the neonatal period. We review the temporal evolution of strategies for management, illustrate the currently available the techniques for permanent closure of the patent arterial duct, review the expected outcomes after closure, discuss the current controversy over the appropriate treatment of the so-called “silent” duct, and provide recommendations for the current state of management of patients with persistent patency of the arterial duct outside of the neonatal period.
At the Congenital Heart Institute of Florida, we now recommend closure of all patent arterial ducts, regardless of their size. Before selecting and performing the type of procedure, we explain the natural history of the persistently patent arterial duct to the parents or legal guardian of the child. Particular emphasis is placed on the risks of endocarditis, including the recognition that many cases of endocarditis may not be preventable.
The devastating effects of endocarditis, coupled with the perception of more anecdotal reports of endocarditis with the silent duct, as well as the low risk of interventions, has led us to recommend closure of the patent arterial duct in these situations. We now recommend intervention, after informed consent, for all patients with a patent arterial duct regardless of size, including those in which the patent duct is “silent”. We recognize, however, that this remains a controversial topic, especially given the new recommendations for endocarditis prophylaxis from American Heart Association.
Since 2003, our strategy for closure of the patent arterial duct has changed subsequent to the availability of the Amplatzer occluder. This new device has allowed significantly larger patent arterial ducts to be closed with interventional catheterization procedures that in the past would have been closed at surgery. During the interval between 2002 and 2006 inclusive, the overall surgical volume at our Institute has been stable. Over this period, the number of patients undergoing surgical ligation of the patent arterial duct has decreased, with this decline in volume most notable for the subgroup of patients weighing more than five kilograms. This decrease has been especially notable in thoracoscopic procedures and is attributable to the increased ability to close larger ducts using the Amplatzer occluder.
For infants with symptomatic pulmonary overcirculation weighing less than 5 kilograms, our preference is for the surgical approach. For patients who have ductal calcification, significant pleural scarring, or “window-like” arterial ducts, video-assisted ligation is not an option and open surgical techniques are used. When video-assisted ligation is possible, the approach is based on family and surgeon preference. When open thoracotomy is selected, we usually use a muscle-sparing left posterolateral thoracotomy.
For patients weighing more than 5 kilograms, we currently recommend percutaneous closure for all patent arterial ducts as the first intervention, reserving surgical treatment for those cases that are not amenable to the percutaneous approach. For symptomatic infants weighing greater than 5 kilogram with large ducts, we prefer to use the Amplatzer occluder. In rare instances, the size of the required ductal occluder is so large that either encroachment into the aorta or pulmonary arteries is noted, and the device is removed. The child is then referred for surgical closure. We can now often predict via echocardiography that a duct is too large for transcatheter closure, even with the Amplatzer occluder, and refer these patients directly to surgery.
For patients with an asymptomatic patent arterial duct, we prefer to wait until the weight is from 10 to 12 kilograms, or they are closer to 2 years of age. If the patent arterial duct is greater than 2.0 to 2.5 millimetres in diameter, our preference is to use the Amplatzer occluder. For smaller ducts, we typically use stainless steel coils. Using this strategy, we close all patent arterial ducts, regardless of their size.