Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
What is a PDA?
A PDA is a normal blood vessel in all fetuses (babies growing in the womb). It connects
two major arteries; the aorta and the pulmonary artery. A fetus does not use the lungs to
breathe because it gets oxygen from the mother’s placenta. The PDA reroutes blood away
from the lungs, sending it directly to the body. After a baby is born, it starts to breathe
and the PDA is no longer needed. It usually closes during the first 2 days after birth.
Sometimes, the PDA doesn’t close. This results in oxygen-rich blood from the aorta
mixing with oxygen-poor blood in the pulmonary artery. This causes too much blood
flow into the lungs, which puts a strain on the heart, and increases blood pressure in the
What causes a PDA?
The cause is not known, but genetics might play a role.
PDA is more common in:
ξ Premature babies
ξ Babies with neonatal respiratory distress syndrome
ξ Babies with genetic disorders like Down syndrome
ξ Babies with other heart conditions
ξ Girls (affects twice as many as boys)
In most babies the PDA will shrink and go away on its own in the first few days of life.
Some PDAs that don't close at this time will often still close on their own by 1 year of
In premature babies, the PDA is more likely to stay open, especially if the baby has lung
disease. When this happens, your child’s doctor may talk to you about treatment to close
How will I know if my baby has a PDA?
Babies with small PDAs may have no symptoms, but a murmur may be heard at a check
up. Babies with a larger PDA might have these symptoms:
ξ Fast breathing
ξ Problems eating
ξ Sweating while eating
ξ Gets tired quickly
ξ Poor weight gain
To find out if your baby has a PDA the doctor will use a stethoscope to listen for a heart
murmur. This is often heard in babies with PDAs. Other tests might include:
ξ A chest x-ray
ξ An ECG, a test that measures the heart's electrical activity.
ξ An echocardiogram, a test that uses sound waves to diagnose heart problems.
These waves bounce off parts of the heart, creating a picture of the heart that is
shown on a monitor. In babies with PDA, an echo shows how big the opening is
and how well the heart is functioning.
What is the treatment for a PDA?
ξ Medicine - if the baby is very young
ξ A heart catheterization procedure
ξ It is very rare that a baby with a PDA needs surgery. Surgery might be needed if
a PDA is large enough that the lungs could become overloaded with blood. This
could lead to an enlarged heart, or symptoms of heart failure.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and
call if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check
with your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any
medical condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor
or others on your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call
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