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Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Clinical Heart and Vascular Center

The experienced heart doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center expertly diagnose and treat patients with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a serious congenital heart condition. Left untreated, PDA can cause pulmonary hypertension and signs of heart failure as early as infancy.

Our congenital heart disease experts work with patients to develop an evidence-based treatment plan tailored to their unique condition, related health issues, and treatment goals.

Expert Care for Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

Patent ductus arteriosus is a congenital heart condition in which the ductus – a small vessel that links the aorta to the pulmonary artery – does not close after birth.

Normally, the ductus supplies oxygenated blood from the mother to the fetus. After birth, the closure of the ductus arteriosus relies on both the release of prostaglandin and blood circulating through the pulmonary vessels. When it doesn’t close, the left ventricle is strained, which can lead to high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).

Untreated, children with a PDA also can show signs of heart failure as early as their first year of life.

The experienced cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons at UT Southwestern expertly evaluate and treat patients with PDA. Our Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program provides complete diagnostic, treatment, and consultative services for patients age 16 and older with all types of congenital heart disease, including those who are newly diagnosed as adults. We offer specialized care that can minimize or prevent complications of congenital heart disease and help patients live longer, healthier lives.

UT Southwestern is also home to a dedicated Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Cardiac rehabilitation is a critical component of recovery and can prevent future heart disease.

Symptoms

A small PDA may cause no signs or symptoms at all. In patients who do show signs or experience symptoms, these can include:

  • Cyanosis (a blueish hue to the skin)
  • Fatigue
  • Full, bounding pulses
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosis

UT Southwestern heart doctors might perform several tests to determine the problem.

Common diagnostic tests for PDA include:

  • Cardiac catheterization: To visualize the defect using a small, thin catheter with a scope that is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin
  • Chest X-ray: To determine if the heart is enlarged or if there is calcification of the PDA
  • Echocardiography (echo or cardiac ultrasound): To visualize abnormal blood flow from the aorta to the pulmonary artery
  • Physical exam: To detect a continuous heart murmur with a stethoscope

Treatment

A PDA can sometimes close by itself within several weeks of birth. If it doesn’t close on its own, ways to close it include:

  • Indomethacin: A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication for infants with symptomatic simple PDA
  • Surgical ligation (tying) of the ductus arteriosus in these cases:
    • Asymptomatic children older than 2 to 3
    • Infants with heart failure in the first year of life
    • Premature infants with severe pulmonary problems
    • Shunt flow greater than 2:1

Support Services

UT Southwestern’s cardiac rehabilitation specialists create customized plans that integrate proper nutrition, exercise, and, if necessary, nicotine cessation into patients’ lifestyles to improve their cardiovascular health.

Clinical Trials

As one of the nation’s top academic medical centers, UT Southwestern offers a number of clinical trials aimed at improving the outcomes of patients with cardiovascular disease.

Clinical trials often give patients access to leading-edge treatments that are not yet widely available. Eligible patients who choose to participate in one of UT Southwestern’s clinical trials might receive treatments years before they are available to the public.

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