(888) 39-MERCY
Wisconsin & Illinois

Health Library


Return to Index
by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Definition

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is an unclosed hole in the heart's aorta.
Before birth, the fetus gets its oxygen from the mother, so the lungs are not used. The ductus arteriosus is a small hole that lets the blood of the fetus bypass lungs. In most babies, the hole closes within a few hours of birth. This is normal. When the hole stays open, blood travels in the wrong direction. This causes too much blood to flow through the lungs.
Patent Ductus Arteriosus
Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Premature birth is the most common cause. PDA may also be linked to:
  • Exposure during pregnancy to infection, such as rubella
  • Genetics
  • The environment

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in babies who weigh less than usual and are born before 28 weeks of pregnancy. It is also more common in female babies.
The risk is also higher in low birth weight babies with:

Symptoms

A baby with a small PDA may not have symptoms. Babies with a large PDA may have:
  • Fast breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Periods of getting tired easily
  • Problems feeding
  • Poor growth

Diagnosis

This problem is often diagnosed at birth. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will listen for signs of a heart murmur. This is enough to suspect PDA.
Blood tests will be done to look for signs of PDA.
Images may be taken of your baby's chest. This can be done with an echocardiogram.

Treatment

In some babies, the PDA may close on its own with time. In others, the goal of treatment is to close the PDA. Choices are:
  • Fluid restriction for 2 to 3 days to help the PDA close on its own
  • Medicine to tighten the muscle in the wall of the PDA to help it close
Babies who are not helped by these methods may need surgery to close the PDA.

Prevention

There are no guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org
Children's Heart Institute
http://www.childrenheartinstitute.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cardiovascular Society
http://www.ccs.ca
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

RESOURCES

Congenital patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). Cincinnati Children's website. Available at: http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/p/pda. Accessed March 5, 2021.
Mezu-Ndubuisi OJ, Agarwal G, et al. Patent ductus arteriosus in premature neonates. Drugs. 2012 May 7;72(7):907-916.
Patent ductus arteriosus. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/patent%5Fductus%5Farteriosus.html. Accessed March 5, 2021.
Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/AboutCongenitalHeartDefects/Patent-Ductus-Arteriosus-PDA%5FUCM%5F307032%5FArticle.jsp. Accessed March 5, 2021.
Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/patent-ductus-arteriosus-pda. Accessed March 5, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2020
  • Update Date: 03/05/2021