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Patent ductus arteriosus

Patent Ductus Arteriosus

 Patent ductus arteriosus or PDA is a common type of congenital heart defect, which means that it is a heart condition that can be present in babies at birth. Patent ductus arteriosus is characterized by the abnormal blood flow to the heart due to a missing blockage between the aorta and the arteries of the lungs. There is no medical consensus about the causes of the disease.

Aorta and pulmonary arteries are connected by a blood vessel, called ductus arteriosus, vital for the fetal blood circulation. After birth, this blood vessel closes, which is a normal change in newborns.

Nevertheless, in some newborns the ductus arteriosus remains open or patent. This opening allows oxygen-full blood coming from the aorta to mix with oxygen-poor blood from the pulmonary vein. The result is a strained heart, with increased blood pressure in the lung arteries.

Some children suffer from patent ductus arteriosus for a few days, and then the condition normalizes. Some other children require patent ductus arteriosus treatment, which implies the surgical sealing of the opening.

Problems Related to Patent Ductus Arteriosus


Due to the extra amount of blood passing through the lungs, this heart condition can cause long-term health complications. Some consequences of patent ductus arteriosus are:

  • Enlarged heart – the increased pressure forces it to work harder.
  • Build-up fluid in the lungs
  • Increased risk of Infective endocarditis (IE) – an infection of the inner lining of the heart valves and chambers.
  • Lung damage – which requires ventilators (machines to support breathing)
  • Reduced blood flow
  • Organ damage – specially in kidneys and intestines

Among the symptom of patent ductus arteriosus we find:

  • Heart murmur
  • Fast breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Poor feeding
  • Poor weight gain
  • Tiring easily
  • Excessive sweating

Patent Ductus Arteriosus Treatment

If patent ductus arteriosus is moderate, the condition is often diagnosed only later in childhood. Over the regular check-up visits, the doctor may refer the child to a pediatric cardiologist. Some of the diagnostic tests performed to help confirm patent ductus arteriosus include:

The goal of patent ductus arteriosus treatments is to close the blood vessel, which immediately helps reverse the effects of increased blood flow and prevent complications.

Among the treatments for patent ductus arteriosus we find:

  • Medicines – Indomethacin causes the PDF to tighten, which may close the opening. However, it does not usually efficient in full-term infants.
  • Catheter-Based Procedures – thin, flexible tubes are used for cardiac catheterization. The specific procedure is called “transcatheter device closure” which helps prevent the risk of infective endocarditis.

During the procedure, done under general anesthesia, the catheter is inserted in a large blood vessel and guided to the heart. A blocking device is passed through the catheter and placed in the patent ductus arteriosus.

Recovery period is shorter than in patent ductus arteriosus surgery.

  • Patent ductus arteriosus surgery – is usually performed when the child is too small, when the catheter does not close the PDA, or when other related congenital heart defect treatments are planned at the same time.

During patent ductus arteriosus surgery a small incision is made between the ribs to reach the patent ductus arteriosus. Then the PDA is closed with the help of clips or stitches.

After surgery, medicine is given to reduce pain and risks for infection. Full recovery is expected within a few weeks. Long-term complications for patent ductus arteriosus surgery are rare.