Learning About Patent Ductus Arteriosus in Children

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What is a patent ductus arteriosus?

Picture of the heart and how blood flows through it

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a problem that occurs soon after birth in some babies. It's a congenital heart problem, which means a baby is born with it.

Before birth, a baby has a blood vessel near the heart called the ductus arteriosus. This blood vessel connects the pulmonary artery (which carries blood to the lungs) and the aorta (which carries blood to the body). This allows blood flow to bypass the lungs. The lungs do not need to supply the blood with oxygen, because before birth the baby gets oxygen from the mother.

This blood vessel normally closes after birth so the blood can go through the lungs to pick up oxygen.

In a PDA, the ductus arteriosus stays open. This allows some of the blood in the aorta to flow back into the pulmonary artery and to the lungs instead of to the rest of the body. Because some of the blood that was supposed to go to the body is going to the lungs, the heart has to pump harder to get blood to the body. This can make the heart bigger and make it harder for the heart to pump blood.

A PDA often causes symptoms such as poor feeding and shortness of breath. But some babies don't have symptoms.

What can you expect when your baby has a PDA?

  • Sometimes the ductus arteriosus closes on its own. It may take from a few days to several months. No treatment is needed. Treatment is generally not needed if your baby has no symptoms.
  • A PDA is more serious if your baby is born early (premature). Premature babies may need treatment even if they have no symptoms.
  • Most children are healthy and live normal lives after treatment. How well a premature baby does depends on how early the baby is born and whether the baby has other health problems.

How is a PDA treated?

Treatment for a PDA depends on how much blood is returning to the heart and whether the baby has symptoms. Treatment may include:

  • Medicine that closes the blood vessel.
  • Cardiac catheterization. The doctor closes the blood vessel using a thin tube called a catheter. With this procedure, the doctor does not have to cut your baby's chest to fix the PDA.
  • Surgery. Your doctor will make a cut in your baby's chest to close the blood vessel.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: January 27, 2016