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Patent Ductus Arteriosus in Premature Newborns

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What is patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)?

PDA happens when a hole in a duct in your baby's heart does not close after birth as it should. The duct connects the pulmonary artery and the aorta in your baby's heart. This allows your baby to get oxygen from his or her mother's blood while he or she is in the womb. After birth, as your baby's lungs begin to work, the hole normally closes on its own. When the hole does not close as it should, it is called a patent (open) ductus arteriosus.

Heart Chambers

What causes a PDA?

The cause of PDA is usually not known. Any of the following can increase your baby's risk:

  • Premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Delivery at high altitude
  • Rubella infection in his or her mother during pregnancy

What health problems can PDA cause?

PDA causes some of the blood from the aorta to flow back into the pulmonary artery. This extra blood flow causes the heart to pump harder than normal to send enough blood and oxygen through the body. The increased blood flow could lead to heart failure. It can also increase pressure in your child's lungs.

What are the signs and symptoms of PDA?

A small PDA may not cause any signs or symptoms. A larger PDA may cause any of the following:

  • Heart murmur (abnormal sound heard through stethoscope)
  • Shortness of breath after crying or feeding
  • Blue lips and fingernails after crying or feeding
  • Problems eating and gaining weight

How is a PDA diagnosed?

  • An echocardiogram uses sound waves to show pictures of your child's heart on a monitor. This test can show how well your child's heart is pumping. It may also show problems such as fluid around the heart or problems with the heart valves.
  • An EKG test records the electrical activity of your child's heart. It is used to check for problems caused by the size of your child's heart.

How is PDA treated?

Your baby's healthcare providers may not close the hole right away. This will allow time for your baby's lungs to develop completely and the hole to close on its own. Your baby may need any of the following:

  • Medicine may be given to help close the PDA. Your baby may need to be given up to 3 doses within 3 days.
  • Surgery may be needed to close the PDA if your baby is having breathing or heart problems. It may also be needed if the medicine does not help close the hole. The surgery may be done in an operating room or in the intensive care unit. Healthcare providers will do tests after the surgery to make sure the hole is closed.

What will happen after my baby's PDA is closed?

Your baby will stay in the hospital. Healthcare providers will continue to monitor any other health conditions your baby may have. Your baby may begin to eat more and gain weight. He or she may not seem as tired as before.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your baby. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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