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Learning About Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) Surgery in Children

Heart showing patent ductus arteriosus and change in blood flow

What is it?

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) surgery is done to close a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus. Normally, this blood vessel closes after birth. But in PDA, it stays open. This causes some of the blood that should go from the heart to the body to go to the lungs instead.

PDA surgery allows blood to flow normally through the blood vessels and the heart. It's done when the opening is large enough that it causes symptoms such as trouble breathing. It may also be done if another treatment for PDA isn't possible or didn't work.

Some babies have the surgery as soon as the problem is found. Other times, surgery is delayed until a child has symptoms or until a child is healthy enough to have surgery.

How is it done?

Before surgery, your child will get medicine to make your child sleep.

PDA surgery is done on the blood vessel, not the heart.

The doctor will make a cut (incision) on the side of the child's chest between the ribs. Next, the doctor will use small tools between the ribs to close the blood vessel with stitches or clips. Then, the doctor will close the incision with stitches.

Afterward, your child will get medicines for pain. Your child may have a chest tube to drain air and fluids out of the chest as the incision heals.

After the surgery, your child may be taken to a recovery room or to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). As your child wakes up, the staff will monitor your child's condition and watch for signs of infection or complications. The doctor will talk to you about the surgery.

The hospital staff will help your child recover. They will also support you.

What can you expect after the surgery?

Most children spend a few days in the hospital. Your child may need special care, such as being in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

You may see tubes and wires attached to your child. This can look scary. But these things help the staff take care of your child. The tubes may supply oxygen, fluid, or medicine. The wires are attached to machines that keep track of your child's pulse rate and other vital signs. The staff will answer any questions you have.

How long it takes your child to recover may depend on your child's age. It may also depend on any other health problems your child has.

After surgery, your child will likely feel better.

You will get instructions about helping your child recover. They will cover things like diet, incision care, medicines, follow-up care, and activity.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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.

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