Cardiac Center

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

Before you begin reading about patent ductus arteriosus, please read the explanation of how the normal heart works for a basic understanding of its structure and function.

What is patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)?

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
View Large Patent Ductus Arteriosus
(PDA) Illustration
Blood flow is different in the fetus and most blood bypasses the lungs. An extra blood vessel (passageway) called the ductus arteriosus (DA) allows blood from the right side of the heart to flow to the aorta, one of the largest arteries, and back out into the body without going through the lungs.

After the baby is born and begins to breathe, the flow of blood to the lungs increases across the pulmonary artery, and the ductus arteriosus usually closes within a few days.

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a condition in which the ductus arteriosus doesn't close. Patent means "open." Sometimes the open passageway is wide (a large PDA) and sometimes it is narrow (a small PDA). A large PDA is dangerous because blood flow to the lungs isn't as controlled as it should be, leading to problems with the lungs and heart.

PDA is most common in premature infants.

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What are the symptoms of patent ductus arteriosus?

Symptoms vary depending on the size of the PDA. Patients with a tiny or small PDA usually have no symptoms. Symptoms in patients with a larger PDA include:

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How is patent ductus arteriosus diagnosed?

Neonatologists, doctors who care for premature babies, work with the Cardiac Center doctors at CHOP to diagnose and treat PDA in newborns. Older infants and children with PDAs are most often sent to our Center after their primary care physicians notice a heart murmur.

Diagnosis of patent ductus arteriosus may require:

Some babies with PDA have other heart defects and will require other tests, including cardiac catheterization and cardiac MRI.

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What are the treatment options for patent ductus arteriosus?

Patients with a tiny or small PDA may not require any treatment. Small PDAs often close on their own. In patients with a larger PDA, your doctor might recommend that the PDA be closed. In premature babies in whom the condition may be dangerous, doctors give medicines to help close the PDA. If the PDA does not close or narrow significantly in response to medicine, an interventional procedure or surgery to close the PDA may be necessary.

In most cases, the PDA can be closed through cardiac catheterization. Doctors insert a thin tube (catheter) through a vein and/or artery in the leg, guide it to the heart, and insert a tiny device to block the PDA. In more complex cases surgery may be required. Our cardiothoracic surgeons use stitches or clips to close the PDA.

Learn about "Duct Busters," our traveling cardiothoracic surgical team who perform on-site repairs at other hospitals for PDA in infants too fragile to transport to CHOP.

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What kind of follow-up care is required for patent ductus arteriosus?

Once a PDA is closed, no long-term follow-up care is necessary unless there are other cardiac concerns.

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Contact us

Contact the Cardiac Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for a second opinion or for more information.

Reviewed by: Paul E. Farrell Jr., MD, MBA, FAAP, FACC
Date: July 2013

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Patent Ductus Arteriosus

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