Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a persistent opening between two major blood vessels leading from the heart. This normal connection, called the ductus arteriosus, is a necessary part of the baby's circulatory system before birth. It usually closes shortly after the baby is born. However, in some individuals it remains open (patent). When this occurs, it's called a patent ductus arteriosus.
A small patent ductus arteriosus often doesn't cause symptoms or problems and may never need treatment. Untreated, a large patent ductus arteriosus can cause too much poorly oxygenated blood to flow through the heart, weakening the heart muscle and causing heart failure and other complications.
Treatment options for repairing a patent ductus arteriosus include monitoring, medications, and closure by cardiac catheterization or surgery.
Patent ductus arteriosus symptoms vary with the size of the defect and the gestational age of the infant at birth. A small PDA may cause no signs or symptoms, and may go undetected for some time, even until adulthood. A large PDA can cause signs of heart failure soon after birth.
Your doctor may first suspect a heart defect during a regular checkup while listening to your baby's heart through a stethoscope.
A large PDA, found during infancy or childhood, may cause:
When to see a doctor
As a baby develops in the womb, a vascular connection (ductus arteriosus) between two major blood vessels leading from the heart — the aorta and pulmonary artery — is a normal and necessary part of your baby's blood circulation while in the womb. The ductus arteriosus diverts blood from the lungs of the fetus while they aren't being used. The fetus receives oxygen from the mother's circulation. But, the ductus arteriosus is supposed to close within two or three days after birth once the newborn's heart adapts to life outside the womb. In premature infants, the connection often takes longer to close on its own. If the connection remains open, it's referred to as a patent ductus arteriosus.
The abnormal opening causes too much blood to circulate to the lungs and heart. If not treated, the blood pressure in the lungs may increase (pulmonary hypertension) and the heart may enlarge and weaken.
Congenital heart defects arise from problems early in the heart's development — but there's often no clear cause. Genetics and environmental factors may play a role.
Patent ductus arteriosus
Patent ductus arteriosus, a common congenital heart defect, is an abnormal opening between the aorta and the pulmonary artery. ...
Risk factors for having a patent ductus arteriosus include:
A small patent ductus arteriosus may not cause any complications. Larger defects that are untreated could cause:
Patent ductus arteriosus and pregnancy
Anyone with a congenital heart defect, repaired or not, who is considering starting a family should carefully discuss it beforehand with his or her doctor. In some cases, preconception consultations with doctors who specialize in cardiology, genetics and high-risk obstetric care are needed. Some heart medications can cause serious problems for a developing baby and may need to be stopped or adjusted before you become pregnant.
Preparing for your appointment
A patent ductus arteriosus may be found while your baby is still in the hospital after birth, sometimes when having tests for other reasons. Your child may also have a PDA discovered later, sometimes because of a heart murmur. You may have an appointment with your child's pediatrician or with a pediatric cardiologist to discuss potential health problems resulting from your child's PDA. If you suspect your child has a PDA or another type of congenital heart disease, make an appointment to see your child's pediatrician to discuss your concerns.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your child's doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For patent ductus arteriosus, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional questions that may come up during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your child's doctor may first suspect your child has a patent ductus arteriosus based on listening to your child's heartbeat. Patent ductus arteriosus can cause a heart murmur that the doctor can hear through a stethoscope. If the doctor hears a heart murmur or finds other signs or symptoms of a heart defect, he or she may request one or more of these tests:
Treatments and drugs
Treatments for patent ductus arteriosus depend on the age of the person being treated.
Preventive antibiotics are no longer recommended for most people with a patent ductus arteriosus. However, some people still need antibiotics, such as those who:
If you've ever been told that you or your child needs to take antibiotics before any procedures, talk with your doctor about whether antibiotics are truly needed.
Lifestyle and home remedies
If you or your child has a congenital heart defect, or has had surgery to correct one, you may have some concerns about aftercare. Here are some issues you may be thinking about:
Because the cause of most PDAs is unclear, there's no specific way to prevent having a baby with a patent ductus arteriosus. However, it's important to do everything possible to have a healthy pregnancy. Here are some of the basics:
If you have a family history of heart defects or other genetic disorders, consider talking with a genetic counselor before becoming pregnant.
Last Updated: 2011-12-22
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