What is the ductus arteriosus?
Before birth, there is no need for a baby to breathe.
The baby gets oxygen from the placenta. A small blood
vessel in the baby’s heart allows blood to bypass (skip)
the lungs and go straight to the rest of the body.
This blood vessel is called the ductus arteriosus
[duck-tus ar-tear-ee-oh-sis].
At birth, a baby starts to breathe. Oxygen
now comes from the baby’s own lungs.
The ductus arteriosus is no longer needed.
It usually closes within days of birth.
What is PDA?
In some babies, the ductus arteriosus does
not close soon after birth. This is called
patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA. In the
case of PDA, patent means open.
In some babies, PDA does not cause any
problems. The size of the vessel is important.
• A small PDA only allows a little blood
to pass through it. This may not cause
any problems.
• Larger PDAs allow more blood to go
back to the lungs instead of out to
the rest of the body. This can increase
blood pressure in the lungs. This also
makes the baby’s heart work harder.
How common is PDA?
PDA is more common in premature or lowbirth-weight
babies. Almost half of all babies
weighing less than 3 lbs, 13 oz at birth will
have this problem. Smaller babies are even
more likely to have a PDA. It is also twice as
common in girls as it is in boys.

How is PDA diagnosed?
A diagnosis of PDA is usually confirmed using an echocardiogram.
What treatment will my baby receive?
• If the PDA is small and does not cause any problems,
treatment may not be needed. Doctors will monitor the
baby and wait for the PDA to close by itself.
• If the PDA is causing blood pressure or breathing
problems, treatment is needed. The goal of treatment
is to close the ductus arteriosus.
Medicine
– Doctors usually try medicine first. The baby receives
the medicine through an intravenous (IV) tube. The
medicine works to tighten the PDA, which makes it
smaller or closes the opening. The medicine is often
enough to fix the PDA.
Surgery
– PDAs may also be closed with stitches or a clip inserted
by a surgeon. This procedure is done in the NICU or in an
operating room. The baby will receive medicine so he or
she will sleep and not feel any discomfort.
What will happen next?
Once the PDA is closed, it usually does not cause any more
problems. Each baby is different. Be sure to follow directions
from the health care team. It is important to keep your baby’s
appointments after you leave the hospital.

Glossary
Congenital heart defect – a heart
problem that is present at birth
Ductus arteriosus – a small
blood vessel that allows blood to
bypass (skip) the lungs and go
directly to the rest of the body
Echocardiogram – a test that uses
sound waves to help doctors see
and diagnose a PDA. The name is
often shortened to “echo”
Intravenous – through a vein
PDA (patent ductus arteriosus)
a heart problem in which the ductus
arteriosus does not close soon
after birth. This allows blood to go
back to the lungs instead of out
to the rest of the body

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