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Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

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Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a heart problem that can occur in newborns shortly after birth. Before birth, a vessel called the ductus arteriosus connects the two major arteries in the heart — the aorta and the pulmonary artery. This vessel is necessary for blood circulation during the baby’s development.

After birth, the vessel closes in response to normal changes in the baby's circulation, usually within the first few days. Sometimes the ductus arteriosus stays open (patent), which is called PDA. The opening causes abnormal blood flow to the baby’s heart and lungs, which can weaken the heart and increase blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).

Risk factors for having a newborn with PDA include:

  • Birth at a high altitude (above 10,000 feet)
  • Family history of heart defects and other genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome
  • Premature birth
  • Rubella (German measles) infection during pregnancy

A small PDA may not have any symptoms and can go undetected for a long time — even years. The only sign may be unusual sound (murmur) a doctor can hear through a stethoscope.

A larger PDA may be diagnosed shortly after birth, with symptoms such as a heart murmur and:

  • Easy tiring
  • Persistent fast breathing or breathlessness
  • Poor eating, which may lead to poor growth
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating when crying or eating

University of Miami Health System neonatologists have the training and experience to diagnose PDA and offer comprehensive treatment. Our neonatology team uses the latest approaches to ensure your baby gets the very best care possible.

Why Choose UHealth?

History of excellence in critical care for babies. Our neonatologists see patients at Holtz Children’s Hospital, which has one of the largest, longest established Level III neonatal intensive care units in the United States. Our neonatal program has been ranked among the best NICUs in the United States by U.S. News & World Report for the past several years. When you trust us to care for your baby, you can be confident that you are putting your child’s care in highly qualified, compassionate hands. 

Recognized by our peers and patients for our excellence. Many of our pediatric doctors are recognized as America’s Top Doctors® by Castle Connolly — doctors who are nominated by their peers as being the very best in their communities. We have more Top Doctors than any other health system in South Florida. We’re affiliated with Holtz Children’s Hospital, one of the largest children’s hospitals in the southeastern United States. The hospital is ranked among the nation’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report in diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and GI surgery, and nephrology.

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Treatments

  • Monitoring

    In many cases, a PDA closes on its own, and it doesn’t need treatment. Your baby’s doctor will monitor your infant’s heart to make sure the vessel closes.

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

    Doctors use NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, to help close the PDA.

  • Open-Heart Surgery

    If medications aren’t successful in helping to close the PDA, your baby’s doctor may recommend open-heart surgery.

Tests

  • Physical Exam

    The doctor may suspect a PDA if they hear a heart murmur while listening to your baby’s heartbeat.

  • Imaging Tests

    Your baby may have one or more noninvasive imaging tests to provide a closer look at the function and structure of your child’s heart. Tests may include a chest X-ray and:

    • Echocardiography: Uses sound waves to create a video of the heart.
    • Electrocardiography: Measures the electrical activity of the heart.