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Health Information For Parents
Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is an extra blood vessel found in babies before birth and just after birth.
In most babies who have an otherwise normal heart, the PDA will shrink and close on its own in the first few days of life. If it stays open longer, it may cause extra blood to flow to the lungs. Problems are most likely if the PDA is large. Some smaller PDAs that don’t close early will seal up on their own by the time the child is a year old.
A patent ductus arteriosus (PAY-tent DUK-tus are-teer-ee-OH-sus) is more likely to stay open in a premature infant, particularly if the baby has lung disease. When this happens, doctors might need to close the PDA.
The ductus arteriosus is a normal blood vessel that connects two major arteries — the aorta and the pulmonary artery — that carry blood away from the heart.
The lungs are not used while a fetus is in the womb because the baby gets oxygen directly from the mother’s placenta. The ductus arteriosus carries blood away from the lungs and sends it directly to the body. When a newborn breathes and begins to use the lungs, the ductus is no longer needed and usually closes by itself during the first 2 days after birth.
If the ductus doesn’t close, the result is a patent (meaning “open”) ductus arteriosus. The PDA lets oxygen-rich blood (blood high in oxygen) from the aorta mix with oxygen-poor blood (blood low in oxygen) in the pulmonary artery. As a result, too much blood flows into the lungs, which puts a strain on the heart and increases blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries.
In infants born with other heart problems that decrease blood flow from the heart to the lungs or decrease the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body, the PDA may actually help, and the doctor might prescribe medicine to keep the ductus arteriosus open.
The cause of PDA is not known, but genetics might play a role. PDA is more common in premature babies and affects twice as many girls as boys. It’s also common among babies with neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, babies with genetic disorders (such as Down syndrome), and babies whose mothers had rubella (also called German measles) during pregnancy.
Babies with a large PDA might have symptoms such as:
If a PDA is suspected, the doctor will use a stethoscope to listen for a heart murmur, which is often heard in babies with PDAs. Follow-up tests might include:
The three treatment options for PDA are medicine, catheter-based procedures, and surgery. A doctor will close a PDA if the size of the opening is big enough that the lungs could become overloaded with blood, a condition that can lead to an enlarged heart.
A doctor also might close a PDA to reduce the risk of developing a heart infection known as endocarditis, which affects the tissue lining the heart and blood vessels. Endocarditis is serious and requires treatment with intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
Arrhythmias are abnormal heartbeats usually caused by an electrical “short circuit” in the heart. Many are minor and not a significant health threat, but others can indicate a more serious problem.
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Everyone’s heart makes sounds, but some people have hearts that make more noise than others. Usually, however, these heart murmurs don’t mean anything is wrong. Find out more about these mysterious murmurs.
When someone has coarctation of the aorta, that person’s aorta (the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body) is narrowed at some point.
Heart murmurs are very common, and most are no cause for concern and won’t affect a child’s health.
Heart defects happen when there’s a problem with a baby’s heart development during pregnancy. Most heart defects can be treated during infancy.
Coarctation of the aorta (COA) is a narrowing of the aorta, the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body.
An arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat usually caused by an electrical “short circuit” in the heart. Many are minor and not a health threat, but some can indicate a more serious problem.
Atrial septal defect (ASD) â also known as a “hole in the heart” â is a type of congenital heart defect. Most ASDs are diagnosed and treated successfully.
Atrial septal defect, or ASD, is a heart defect that some people are born with. Most ASDs are diagnosed and treated successfully with few or no complications.
Ventricular septal defect, or VSD, is a heart condition that a few teens can have. Find out what it is, how it happens, and what doctors do to correct it.
Ventricular septal defect (VSD) â also known as a “hole in the heart” â is a congenital heart defect. Most VSDs are diagnosed and treated successfully.
The heart and circulatory system (also called the cardiovascular system) make up the network that delivers blood to the body’s tissues.
The heart and circulatory system are our body’s lifeline, delivering blood to the body’s tissues. Brush up on your ticker with this body basics article.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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