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What Is Patent Ductus Arteriosus?

Patent ductus arteriosus (pronounced PAY-tent DUCK-tus are-teer-e-OH-sus) happens when a small blood vessel near the heart fails to close after a baby is born.

The ductus arteriosus is a temporary blood vessel that joins the pulmonary artery to the aorta. It allows blood to bypass the lungs during fetal growth.

This works fine because babies don’t breathe on their own until after they’re born. So they don’t need blood going to their lungs to get oxygen. Prior to birth, the fetus gets oxygen through the placenta.

Normally when a newborn's lungs take over at birth, their body stops making the chemicals that keep the ductus arteriosus open. So the ductus closes within a few days.

If the ductus arteriosus remains patent (open), too much blood may go into the baby's lungs. This could lead to heart failure.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus in Children

A ductus that doesn't close is common in premature babies but rare in full-term babies.

Doctors diagnose patent ductus arteriosus in about 3,000 babies each year in the United States. Girls are two to three times as likely as boys to have it.

Some babies with patent ductus arteriosus have other heart defects, but not all do.

This condition is more common in babies with Down syndrome and babies whose mother had German measles (rubella) while she was pregnant.

In babies who have a normal ductus that’s closing but have other kinds of heart defects (like hypoplastic left heart syndrome, interrupted aortic arch or pulmonary atresia), doctors may give medicine (prostaglandin) to keep the ductus open. This helps blood flow through the baby’s heart until their other defects can be treated.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus at Seattle Children’s

Our heart team has treated many children with patent ductus arteriosus. We have extensive experience with the treatment these patients may require, including medicine, cardiac catheterization and surgery. We also have a pediatric cardiac anesthesia team and a cardiac intensive care unit ready to care for children who undergo heart surgery.

When you come to Children's, a team of people will take care of your child. Along with your child's cardiologist, you are connected with neonatologists, pulmonologists (lung doctors), nurses, child life specialists, social workers and others, if their expertise is needed. We work together to meet all of your child's health needs and help your family through this experience.

Since 1907, Children's has been treating children only. Our team members are trained in their fields and also in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age. Our expertise in pediatrics truly makes a difference for our patients and families.

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program shared by Children’s and the University of Washington can help with care throughout your child’s life.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

Find out by selecting your child’s symptom or health condition in the list below:

Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)