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Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)


We know that a heart condition can be scary for you and your child. You can relax knowing that physicians at Children’s Health are world-class subspecialists from UT Southwestern who specialize in diagnosing and treating congenital heart conditions such as patent ductus arteriosus.

All babies are born with a connection between the two large blood vessels that go to the heart and lungs (ductus arteriosus). This connection normally closes on its own within the first few days of life. In some babies the connection remains open (patent), a condition known as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA).

PDA is more common in babies born prematurely because their hearts don’t always get a chance to fully develop however, PDA can also happen in full term babies.

When a child has PDA:

  • Oxygen-rich blood goes back into the lungs instead of out to the body
  • The heart pumps harder than it should
  • He or she is at risk for other conditions, such as an enlarged heart and lung damage

Symptoms of Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Symptoms of PDA are different for each child, depending on the size of the connection. A child with a small PDA may have a heart murmur, but no other symptoms.

Children with a larger PDA may show many additional symptoms, including:

  • Tiredness
  • Rapid or heavy breathing
  • Shortness of breath (older children)
  • Congested breathing
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Poor weight gain
  • Difficulty exercising (older children)
  • Lung infections

The symptoms of PDA may look like other medical conditions and heart problems. If you notice any of these signs in your child, it’s important to see a doctor right away.

Tests and Diagnosis

Diagnosing Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Accurately diagnosing PDA helps us make sure your child gets the treatment he or she needs as quickly as possible. We start with a comprehensive exam, which may include one or more separate tests.

Your child’s physical evaluation may include:

  • Questions about growth, development, family history and any recent illnesses
  • Listening to the heart and lungs
  • Observing symptoms

Diagnostic testing may include:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Echocardiogram

With expertise in every aspect of pediatric heart disease, Children’s Health℠ offers comprehensive pediatric heart care. Learn more about the full range of tests we offer in our cardiac imaging department.


Patent Ductus Arteriosus Treatment

Our goal is to deliver compassionate care tailored to your child’s needs. Treating PDA often involves surgically closing the ductus arteriosus. In some cases, we use temporary treatments while we wait to see if the connection closes on its own. In older infants and children, we can close the  connection using a catheter-based procedure.

Treatments for PDA include:

  • Medical management: Babies born prematurely may receive an intravenous (IV) medication called indomethacin to help the PDA close on its own.
  • Nutrition: Premature babies and children with a large PDA may receive special formula or breast milk supplements to help them get enough nutrition to gain weight.
  • Surgery: If other treatments aren’t working, your child may need surgery. In most cases, we perform PDA closure with minimally invasive techniques that use tiny incisions.
  • Device treatment: We place small coils or plugs in the PDA using a catheter that goes through a small incision in the leg.

Learn more about our cardiac catheterization and intervention program.


Patent Ductus Arteriosus FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What causes PDA?

Normally a patent ductus closes shortly after birth. In some children, the connection does not close. Although the exact reasons why this happens in some babies and not others is not known. It is more common in babies born prematurely.

Why is PDA a concern?

When the ductus arteriosus stays open, oxygen-rich blood mixes with oxygen-poor blood. This causes the blood vessels in the lungs to handle a larger amount of blood than normal. Over time, this extra blood flow can cause lung damage and an enlarged heart.

Will my child be able to live a normal life?

Children with repaired (closed) PDAs normally go on to live normal, healthy lives. Your child’s activity levels, appetite and growth should return to normal after they recover from surgery.

What happens after PDA closure surgery?

Your child will need a few days to recover, usually at home. In some cases, your child may need to take antibiotics to prevent infection.

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