Definition of Patent ductus arteriosus
Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a condition in which a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus fails to close normally in an infant soon after birth. (The word “patent” means open.)
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Before birth, the ductus arteriosus allows blood to bypass the baby’s lungs by connecting the pulmonary arteries (which supply blood to the lungs) with the aorta (which supplies blood to the body). Soon after the infant is born and the lungs fill with air, this blood vessel is no longer needed. It will usually close within a couple of days. If the ductus arteriosus does not close, there will be abnormal blood circulation between the heart and lungs.
A small PDA may not cause any symptoms. However, some infants may not tolerate a PDA, especially if it is large, and may have symptoms such as:
Signs and tests
Babies with PDA often have a characteristic heart murmur that can be heard with a stethoscope. However, in premature infants, a heart murmur may not be heard. Doctor’s may suspect the condition if the infant has breathing or feeding problems soon after birth.
The goal of treatment, if the rest of circulation is normal or close to normal, is to close the PDA. In the presence of certain other heart problems, such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the PDA may actually be lifesaving and medicine may be used to prevent it from closing.
If a small PDA remains open, heart symptoms may or may not eventually develop. Persons with a moderate or large PDA could eventually develop heart problems unless the PDA is closed.
Kurt R. Schumacher, MD, Pediatric Cardiology, University of Michigan Congenital Heart Center, Ann Arbor, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 12/21/2009