Patent Ductus Arteriosus

PDA is a heart problem that is frequently noted in the first few weeks or months after birth. It is characterized by the persistence of a normal fetal connection between the aorta and the pulmonary artery which allows oxygen-rich (red) blood that should go to the body to recirculate through the lungs. All babies are born with this connection between the aorta and the pulmonary artery. While your baby was developing in the uterus, it was not necessary for blood to circulate through the lungs because oxygen was provided through the placenta. During pregnancy, a connection was necessary to allow oxygen-rich (red) blood to bypass your babys lungs and proceed into the body. This normal connection that all babies have is called a ductus arteriosus. At birth, the placenta is removed when the umbilical cord is cut.

Your babys lungs must now provide oxygen to his or her body. As your baby takes the first breath, the blood vessels in the lungs open up, and blood begins to flow through them to pick up oxygen. At this point, the ductus arteriosus is not needed to bypass the lungs. Under normal circumstances, within the first few days after birth, the ductus arteriosus closes and blood no longer passes through it.

In some babies, however, the ductus arteriosus remains open (patent) and the condition now becomes known as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). The opening between the aorta and the pulmonary artery allows oxygen-rich (red) blood to recirculate into the lungs. Patent ductus arteriosus occurs twice as often in girls as in boys.

 

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