Key Points about Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

  • PDA is a condition with premature babies that can lead to heart issues but typically solves itself.
  • Symptoms may go undetected into adulthood, but others may feel fatigued fast breathing, and low weight gain. Seek medical help if your child is experiencing symptoms.
  • PDA can be treated through medication or surgery if the opening doesn't close naturally.
Common related conditions
Arrhythmias Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Heart Attack Heart (Cardiovascular) Disease


PDA is caused when the blood vessels connecting the aorta and the pulmonary arteries (ductus arteriosus) does not close after birth. Typically, it will close after birth, but if it stays open, the heart and arteries in the lungs can experience strain. Eight out of 1,000 premature babies are diagnosed with PDA.

If the opening is small enough, symptoms might not show and can go undetected into adulthood. However, if the opening is large, it can lead to a rapid heart rate, poor eating, fast breathing.

While the hole will typically close on its own, if it isn’t, medications or surgery may be needed.

Patent ductus arteriosus causes

Occurring more frequently in premature newborns, PDA occurs if the whole from the aorta to the pulmonary artery does not close. The hole will close within a few days for most babies.

Patent ductus arteriosus risk factors

PDA is common, but factors that may increase an infant’s likelihood of developing PDA include:

  • Premature birth
  • Family history and genetic conditions
  • Rubella infection during pregnancy
  • Girls are twice as likely to have PDA over boys
  • Down syndrome

Patent ductus arteriosus symptoms

PDA symptoms vary based on the size of the opening, and if the baby was born premature or full term. If the opening is large enough, PDA can cause signs of heart failure after birth.

The most common symptom of PDA is the detection of a heart murmur during a physical exam.

If the PDA is large enough, the symptoms found during infancy or childhood include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Fast breathing and breathlessness
  • Sweating when crying or eating
  • Low weight gain
  • Poor eating
    • - leading to poor growth

Patent ductus arteriosus diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose a baby with PDA after listening to its heart with a stethoscope during a physical examination. If the doctor hears a heart murmur, he or she may have to perform testing to diagnose further. Those diagnostic tests include:

  • Echocardiogram: Uses sound waves to see your heart's activity visually.
  • Chest X-ray: A chest X-ray is often used to take a picture of the heart and lungs.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): Records the electrical signals that pass through the heart.
  • Cardiac catheterization (cardiac cath): A cardiac cath can help diagnose heart defects like PDA. Your doctor can fix a PDA during a cardiac cath.

Patent ductus arteriosus treatment

After your doctor evaluates the situation, treatment options include:

  • Close monitory by your doctor
  • Medication to help close the PDA
  • Open heart surgery
  • Cardiac catheterization

When should I seek care?

You should seek care once your child starts experiencing PDA symptoms. If a newborn’s symptoms begin to get more severe or if the PDA is unlikely to close on its own.

Next Steps

Your doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment for your case. Your doctor may recommend waiting to see if the patent ductus arteriosus will close on its own. If the PDA is unlikely to close on its own, your doctor may recommend medical or surgical treatment.

Medications work better for newborns to help the PDA close. For older infants and children, surgery is more common to close the PDA.

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