Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)


Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a congenital heart defect in which there is a persistent opening between the two major blood vessels leading from the heart. Normally, the opening called the ductus arteriosus closes shortly after birth. However, if it remains open, it’s called a patent ductus arteriosus.

While a small PDA often does not cause problems and may not require treatment, a large, untreated PDA can lead to complications such as heart failure. This is because it allows oxygen-poor blood to move in the wrong direction, weakening the heart muscle.

Healthcare providers may use different treatment options for PDA, including regular health checkups, medication, and procedures or surgery to close the opening. In some cases, PDA may resolve on its own. However, if it persists, healthcare providers aim to restore normal blood circulation between the heart and lungs.


The symptoms of patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) vary depending on the size of the opening and the age of the person. If the PDA is small, there may be no symptoms, and some individuals may not experience any symptoms until they reach adulthood. However, if the PDA is large, it can lead to symptoms of heart failure shortly after birth.

A significant PDA discovered during infancy or childhood could lead to:

  • Gets tired easily.
  • Fast heartbeat or pulse.
  • Perspiring when sobbing or eating.
  • Inadequate nutrition which results in stunted growth.
  • Consistently rapid breathing or being out of breath.

If your baby or older child is experiencing symptoms such as easily getting tired during meals or playtime, not gaining weight, becoming breathless while eating or crying, or consistently displaying rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, it is recommended to seek medical attention from a doctor.


Congenital heart defects are not fully understood, but they can occur during the first six weeks of pregnancy when the baby’s heart begins to form and beat, and the major blood vessels to and from the heart develop. Some heart defects may develop during this time, but the exact causes remain unclear.

During pregnancy, the baby’s heart has a temporary opening called the ductus arteriosus, which is between the two main blood vessels leaving the heart. This opening is essential for the baby’s blood flow before birth, allowing the blood to bypass the lungs while they develop. The mother’s blood supplies the baby with oxygen. Normally, the ductus arteriosus closes within 2 to 3 days after birth, but in some cases, it remains open, causing a condition called a patent ductus arteriosus.

If left untreated, a patent ductus arteriosus can cause too much blood to flow to the baby’s lungs and heart. The blood pressure in the lungs may increase, and the baby’s heart may enlarge and weaken. Therefore, it is crucial to detect and treat a patent ductus arteriosus to prevent further complications.

Risk factors

The following are risk factors for patent ductus arteriosus (PDA):

  • Premature birth. Compared to newborns born at full term, premature babies are more likely to have patent ductus arteriosus.
  • Having PDA or other genetic disorders in the family. The risk of developing a PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosus) may be higher if there is a history of heart problems in the family from birth. Additionally, infants who have Down syndrome, which involves an extra 21st chromosome, are more likely to develop this condition.
  • German measles during pregnancy. Pregnancy-related rubella, often known as German measles, can interfere with a baby’s ability to form a heart. You can find out if you are immune to rubella by having a blood test before becoming pregnant. For people who lack immunity, there is a vaccination available.
  • Altitude of the birth place. Infants born at higher altitudes—above 8,200 feet (2,499 meters)—have a higher risk of developing PDA.
  • Gender. In girls, patent ductus arteriosus occurs twice as frequently.