Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a congenital condition where the ductus – a small vessel connecting the aorta to the pulmonary artery – does not close after birth.

Normally, a fetus uses the patent ductus to supply oxygenated blood from the mother to the body. After birth, blood circulation through the pulmonary vessels in the lungs causes the ductus to close. If it does not close, there is more strain on the left ventricle, which can lead to pulmonary hypertension.

The closure of the ductus arteriosus relies on prostaglandin released locally after birth. Babies can show signs of heart failure as early as their first year of life, as well as pulmonary hypertension.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus Symptoms

There may be no symptoms of a small PDA. However, the signs include:

  • Cyanosis (turning blue)
  • Fatigue
  • Full, bounding pulses
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosis of Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Your UT Southwestern Medical Center doctor may use several tests to diagnose patent ductus arteriosus. Common diagnostic tests include:

Cardiac catheterization
To visualize PDA by inserting a small, thin catheter with a scope into a groin blood vessel
Chest X-ray
To see if the heart is enlarged, or in adults, if there is calcified PDA
To show abnormal blood flow from the aorta to the pulmonary artery by bouncing sound waves off the heart to create a moving picture
Physical exam
To detect continuous heart murmur heard on stethoscope

Patent Ductus Arteriosus Treatment

PDA can sometimes close on its own within a couple of weeks of birth. If it doesn’t close, there are some ways to close it. Options include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (Indomethacin) that can be given to infants with symptomatic simple PDA
  • Surgical ligation, or tying, of ductus arteriosus in these cases:
    • Asymptomatic children more than 2 to 3 years old with PDA
    • Infants with heart failure in the first year of life
    • Premature infants with severe pulmonary problems
    • Shunt flow greater than 2:1

Learn more about the condition and treatment options for patients in the Dallas area at Children’s Medical Center.