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Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a birth defect of the heart. This defect allows blood to mix between the pulmonary artery (the artery that carries blood between the heart and lungs) and the aorta (the main artery of the body).

There's an open passageway (the ductus arteriosus) between the pulmonary artery and aorta that allows blood to flow around the lungs before a baby is born. Once a baby is born and its lungs fill with air, the ductus arteriosus is no longer necessary. Typically, the ductus arteriosus closes within a few hours or days after birth. If that closure does not happen, however, some blood that should flow through the aorta and on to nourish the body returns to the lungs.

A ductus that doesn't close is quite common in premature infants but rather rare in full-term babies. In premature babies, the ductus may close in the first two years of life. In babies born at full-term, it is unlikely that the ductus will close on its own.

If a PDA is small, the child may have no symptoms and may not need treatment. If the ductus arteriosus is large, a child may tire quickly, grow slowly, catch pneumonia easily, have poor feeding habits, breathe rapidly and have a rapid pulse. In some children symptoms may not occur until after the first weeks or months of life. X-rays or an echocardiogram may be used to diagnose a PDA.

If surgery is needed, the surgeon can close the ductus arteriosus by tying it and without opening the heart. If there's no other defect, this restores the circulation to normal.