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Patent ductus arteriosus

A defect of the heart in which the ductus arteriosus (a channel between the pulmonary artery and the aorta in the fetus) fails to close at birth.

Cause

In the fetus, blood that is pumped by the right side of the heart flows through the ductus arteriosus and bypasses the lungs.  Usually, the ductus arteriosus closes at or shortly after birth and blood passes from the right ventricle (lower chamber) of the heart to the lungs.  In certain babies this closure can fail to happen, producing a patent ductus arteriosus.  In this condition, some of the blood that is pumped by the left side of the heart, and which go to the rest of the body, is directed via the ductus to the lungs.  As a result, the heart has to work harder than normal to pump the blood to the body.

Symptoms

Patent ductus arteriosus often causes no symptoms unless a heavy amount of blood is misdirected, in which case the baby fails to gain weight, may have frequent chest infections, and become short of breath on exertion.  Ultimately, heart failure can develop.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis is made from chest X-rays, from hearing a heart murmur and from an ECG and echocardiography.  The drug indomethacin or surgery can be used to close up the duct.  


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