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Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

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The ductus arteriosus is the blood vessel that connects the pulmonary artery (the artery leading from the heart to the lungs), with the aorta (the artery leading from the heart to the body). In the unborn baby, the ductus directs much of the blood flow away from the developing lungs to the rest of the body.

Once the full term baby starts using his/her lungs to breathe, the ductus usually closes during the first week of life. But for premature babies, the ductus may remain open after birth. Babies with certain heart defects may need the ductus to maintain good blood flow.

In some babies, the ductus opening is so small that it may cause only minor problems or none at all. Treatment may not be needed and the ductus closes by itself as the baby matures. The baby with a large PDA may begin to show signs of breathing problems within several days or weeks after birth.

To diagnose a PDA, doctors and nurses listen for a sound or murmur that the blood makes as it flows through the ductus. They may do an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) to see if there is flow through this tube or vessel.


  • For premature infants an aspirin-like medicine (Indomethacin) or Tylenol and Ibuprofen is given
  • By limiting fluids
  • With surgery
  • With a special procedure done during a cardiac catheterization using coils or a device to close the PDA. This procedure is usually done for older infants and children.

If surgery is needed, a very small incision is made on the left side of the baby's chest and the ductus is closed. This surgery is not open heart surgery and it does not mean that the baby will have heart problems. After surgery, your baby may take a few days to recover.

If you have questions about these treatments, ask your baby's doctor.

Disclaimer:This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 07/2018

(757) 668-7000