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A to Z: Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

May also be called: PDA

Patent ductus arteriosus (DUK-tus ar-tir-ee-OH-sus), or PDA, is a condition in newborn babies in which a fetal blood vessel in the heart fails to close as it normally should.

More to Know

The ductus arteriosus (DA) is a normal blood vessel that connects two major arteries — the aorta and the pulmonary artery — that carry blood away from the heart in a developing fetus. The DA diverts blood away from the lungs, sending it directly to the body. The lungs are not used while a fetus is in the amniotic fluid because the baby gets oxygen directly from the mother's placenta. When a newborn breathes and begins to use the lungs, the DA is no longer needed and usually closes during the first 2 days after birth.

If the DA fails to close, a patent (meaning "open") ductus arteriosus is the result. Oxygen-rich blood from the aorta mixes with oxygen-poor blood in the pulmonary artery, and too much blood flows into the lungs.

Babies with a PDA may have poor feeding, poor growth, difficulty breathing, excessive sweating, fatigue, or a bluish color to the skin. A larger PDA puts a strain on the heart and increases blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries. A smaller PDA may not cause any symptoms.

Keep in Mind

In the vast majority of babies who have a small PDA but otherwise normal heart, the PDA will shrink and go away on its own in the first few days of life. Other PDAs may close on their own within the first year of a baby's life.

Large PDAs are rare, but can strain the heart and cause other problems. Medications, catheter-based procedures, or surgery may be used to close these PDAs.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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