What Is Patent Ductus Arteriosus?

Smiling baby boy

As a baby grows in the mother’s womb, the child’s blood is not oxygenated via the lungs, as it is after birth. Instead, oxygen is transferred from mother to baby through the umbilical cord. Fetal blood bypasses the baby’s non-functional, fluid-filled lungs through a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus. Once the baby is born and cries for the first time, his or her lungs fill with air and the ductus arteriosus closes over the following minutes to days. As a physician from Sunrise Children’s Hospital will tell you, this process may be complicated by patent ductus arteriosus (PDA).

PDA Basics
Patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA, occurs when the ductus arteriosus does not close after birth. As a result, the newly oxygenated blood coming from the lungs mixes with the deoxygenated blood in the pulmonary artery. This allows too much blood to flow to the lungs, leading to strain on the heart and high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery.

Depending on the severity of a child’s PDA, the only noticeable symptom may be a heart murmur. Serious cases may lead to fast breathing or difficulty breathing—some babies may need to be placed on a ventilator to ensure they are getting enough oxygen. Infants may also show fatigue, poor appetite, and lack of weight gain. While any newborn can suffer from patent ductus arteriosus , premature babies are more likely to be affected. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, PDA is also twice as common in girls as it is in boys.

Treatment of PDA can involve medications, catheter-based procedures, or surgery—all of which have the goal of closing the PDA and restoring healthy circulation. As a leader in children’s heart care, Sunrise Children’s Hospital is proud to offer comprehensive care to children in need of delicate heart procedures. Our compassionate and experienced surgeons provide consistently high-quality care to the infants and children of Nevada.

Call our Consult-A-Nurse referral line today at (702) 731-5437 for more information about our heart care services.

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