Thumbnail image of: Patent Ductus Arteriosus: Illustration

Patent Ductus Arteriosus

What is patent ductus arteriosus?

Patent ductus arteriosus is a birth defect that causes abnormal blood flow in the heart.

Before birth, a baby’s blood does not need to go through the lungs to pick up oxygen because the baby gets oxygen-rich blood from the mother. A blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus lets blood go around the baby’s lungs before birth. At birth, when the baby’s lungs fill with air, this blood vessel is no longer needed, and normally it closes soon after birth. When it does not close it is called a patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA. In a child with PDA, some of the blood that should go to the rest of the body through the aorta goes back to the lungs instead.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of this birth defect is not known.

This problem is common in premature infants, especially if their lungs are not mature. It is rare in full-term babies. Other risks for PDA include:

  • Genetic problems such as Down syndrome. (Genes are inside each cell of the body and are passed from parents to children. They contain the information that tells the body how to develop and work.)
  • Mothers who had rubella during pregnancy
  • Having other heart defects
  • Having siblings who were born with PDA

What are the symptoms?

Babies who have a small opening often have no symptoms, but PDA causes a whooshing sound, called a murmur, as blood moves through the heart. Healthcare providers can hear the murmur with a stethoscope

If the PDA is large, a baby may not gain weight easily. The baby may get short of breath and sweat when crying or playing. An older child with PDA may not be able to exercise as much as normal and may have lung infections often. A PDA can also increase the risk of an infection in the heart called endocarditis.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child.

Tests may include:

  • An echocardiogram, which uses sound waves (ultrasound) to show pictures of the heart and how well blood is flowing through it
  • Chest X-ray

How is it treated?

A PDA may close by itself and not need treatment. In premature babies, medicine can be used to help the PDA close.

If the PDA is large or does not close by itself, your baby will need surgery. Your baby may need to take medicines until he is strong enough to have surgery. Two types of surgery may be done to close the defect:

  • Heart catheterization, which uses a small tube called a catheter inserted into a blood vessel, dye, and X-rays to look at the blood vessels and heart. The healthcare provider will use tools put through the catheter to repair the defect. The hole may be closed by plugging the opening with a small plastic device.
  • Surgery to close the defect may be needed.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow your child’s healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your child’s test results
  • How long it will take for your child to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • If your child should take antibiotics to prevent infection before having dental work or procedures that involve the rectum, bladder, or vagina
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-29
Last reviewed: 2015-01-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

Patient Portal

myTuftsMed is our new online patient portal that provides you with access to your medical information in one place. MyTuftsMed can be accessed online or from your mobile device providing a convenient way to manage your health care needs from wherever you are.

With myTuftsMed, you can:

  1. View your health information including your medications, test results, scheduled appointments, medical bills even if you have multiple doctors in different locations.
  2. Make appointments at your convenience, complete pre-visit forms and medical questionnaires and find care or an emergency room.
  3. Connect with a doctor no matter where you are.
  4. Keep track of your children’s and family members’ medical care, view upcoming appointments, book visits and review test results.
  5. Check in on family members who need extra help, all from your private account.


Your privacy is important to us. Learn more about ourwebsite privacy policy. X