Persistent Ductus Arteriosus

Persistent means continuing to exist. Ductus arteriosus (or arterial duct) is the name of the tube that carries blood between the aorta and the pulmonary artery in the foetus. So persistent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a tube that continues to exist in the baby even after he or she is born.

If the duct is very large, especially in premature babies, the first treatment is medical.

Medicines such as Ibuprofen (Brufen) or Indomethacin may be given to premature babies to try to get the ductus to close. If these medications cannot be used, depending on the size of the ductus arteriosus, surgery may be needed.

In babies who are breathless or have difficulty feeding because of the extra blood going to the lungs through the ductus arteriosus, the lungs can become heavy or ‘wet’ with fluid. If this is the case, your baby may need medication to get rid of the extra fluid (diuretics).

Because the duct is outside of the heart, it can be closed surgically without needing to stop the heart or use a bypass machine.  

After surgery, your child will be left with a small scar on the left side of the chest. The hospital stay is often a short one of not more than a few days, depending on how well the child was before the surgery. If your child is premature then they may need to remain in hospital for a much longer period of time.

Most PDAs in older infants and children are closed without surgery. A long thin tube called a catheter is used to place a closure device – usually a coil or plug – in the ductus arteriosus. The catheter is threaded through a blood vessel from the groin, through the heart and into the duct, where the device is allowed to expand and block it. The hospital stay will be one or two days.

For most children the catheter procedure and the surgery are low risk, but it can depend on how well your child is otherwise. The doctors will discuss risks with you in detail before asking you to consent to the operation.

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Author(s): Children’s Heart Federation
Last updated: 2012-06-14