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 heart defect present at birth (congenital) often closes on its own or is readily treatable. Left untreated, a patent ductus arteriosus can cause too much blood to flow through the heart, weakening the heart muscle and causing heart failure and other complications.
A small patent ductus arteriosus often doesn't cause symptoms. A doctor may discover it during a routine exam. An infant with a larger patent ductus arteriosus often has trouble gaining weight and has other signs and symptoms. An older child who has a patent ductus arteriosus may not be as active as normal, may tire more easily and may have frequent lung infections. Occasionally, a small patent ductus arteriosus may not be detected until adulthood.
Treatment options for repairing a patent ductus arteriosus include monitoring, medications and 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. A premature infant may have other problems associated with being born too soon, and related testing may uncover a heart defect.
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
A patent ductus arteriosus that doesn't close on its own is more common in premature babies, but rare in infants born at full term.
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. But, this connection 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 closes on its own within a few weeks of birth. But if it 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 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 questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
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:
In most cases, you can't do anything to prevent having a baby with a patent ductus arteriosus, or any other heart defect. However, it's important to do everything possible to have a healthy pregnancy. Here are 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: 2009-12-22
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