What is patent ductus arteriosus?

Patent ductus arteriosus is a congenital heart defect that occurs when the ductus arteriosus, the blood vessel that connects the aorta and pulmonary arteries, does not close after birth. If this hole does not close, it can strain the heart and arteries in the lungs.

Patent ductus arteriosus affects approximately eight out of every 1,000 premature babies and about two out of 1,000 full-term infants born in the United States. If left untreated, PDA can cause permanent damage to the blood vessels in the lungs.

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) Aortic Valve Stenosis (Aortic Stenosis) Pulmonary Valve Stenosis (Pulmonary Stenosis) Aortic Valve Regurgitation Pulmonary Valve Regurgitation

Causes of patent ductus arteriosus

Patent ductus arteriosus occurs if the hole that leads from the aorta to the pulmonary artery, the ductus arteriosus, does not close after birth. The hole closes within a few days with most babies. This congenital heart defect occurs more frequently in premature newborns.

Risk factors for patient ductus arteriosus

Patent ductus arteriosus is a common congenital heart defect. Factors that can increase an infant’s likelihood of developing the condition include:

  • Gender — girls are more likely to develop patent ductus arteriosus after birth
  • Down syndrome — infants with Down syndrome or other genetic abnormalities are more likely to develop patient ductus arteriosus after birth
  • German measles — infants born to mothers who had rubella during pregnancy
  • Premature babies — premature babies are more likely to develop patent ductus arteriosus after birth

Symptoms of patent ductus arteriosus

The most common sign of PDA is a heart murmur detected with a stethoscope during a physical exam.

Other symptoms of PDA include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Low weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating while feeding
  • Fast breathing

Diagnosis of patent ductus arteriosus

Your doctor can diagnose patent ductus arteriosus by listening to your child’s heart with a stethoscope. If your child has a heart murmur, he or she may need further testing to confirm the diagnosis. Testing may include:

  • Echocardiogram — can detect heart defects or hear valve abnormalities.
  • Chest x-ray — will take pictures of the heart and lungs to determine what condition is causing symptoms.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) — can help diagnose heart defects or arrhythmias.
  • Cardiac catheterization (cardiac cath) — helpful in diagnosing congenital heart defects including PDA that allows for repair during the cardiac cath.

Treatment for patent ductus arteriosus

Your doctor will evaluate your case to determine the appropriate treatment protocol. Treatment options for patent ductus arteriosus include:

  • Close monitoring by your doctor — in some patients, such as a premature baby, PDA may heal on its own.
  • Medical management — some patients can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Motrin or Indocin.
  • Open heart surgery — when medications are not effective in treating a PDA, your doctor may recommend open-heart surgery to repair the hole in the heart.
  • Cardiac catheterization (cardiac cath) — your doctor may recommend your child have a cardiac cath to repair the hole in the heart.

Find a cardiologist nearby

Mercy Health locations that can treat you