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How Does Patent Ductus Arteriosus Affect A Child & How Dangerous Is It?

When the ductus remains open, the oxygen-rich red blood mixes with oxygen-poor blue blood increasing the flow of blood.1

A larger hypertensive patent ductus arteriosus can lead to irreversible pulmonary hypertension causing the heart to enlarge and weaken eventually resulting in heart failure.2

When patent ductus arteriosus is not treated appropriately, it adds extra strain on the heart and major blood vessels, and continuous damage can lead to death.3, 4

How Does Patent Ductus Arteriosus Affect A Child?

When the fetus is developing in the mother’s womb it doesn’t require a large amount of blood flow through the lungs because the breathing is through the placenta. However, after birth, the baby takes its first breath when the blood starts flowing through the lungs to pick up oxygen.

Under normal conditions, the ductus closes few days after birth but in some babies, the ductus remains open and the condition is called patent ductus arteriosus. The size and connection between the aorta and the pulmonary artery are often dependent on the type and severity of symptoms. The affected babies will experience the below symptoms.1

  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Palpitations
  • Congested breathing
  • Poor feeding results in low weight gain.

When the ductus stays open, there is an increased flow of blood to the lungs. A larger complicated patent ductus arteriosus causes elevated pulmonary hypertension that makes oxygen-poor (blue) blood to flow from the right to the left ventricle and then to the body, causing cyanosis.

This will eventually make the heart to enlarge and weaken thus resulting in heart failure when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should.

Your infant’s healthcare provider may suspect a heart defect during a routine physical examination. The symptoms of patent ductus arteriosus resemble other health conditions, therefore your doctor may suggest one or more tests.2

How Dangerous Is Patent Ductus Arteriosus?

Smaller patent ductus arteriosus closes on its own and does not produce any signs and symptoms. Nevertheless, hypertensive PDA can lead to heart failure, arrhythmias, or pulmonary hypertension that increases the complications during gestation. Especially when the pregnant mother has a genetic history there are higher chances of developing a congenital heart condition.

Pregnancy should be avoided in individuals with Eisenmenger syndrome because it can be life-threatening. Similarly, if the patent ductus arteriosus is not treated there will be an extra strain on the heart and lungs causing irreversible damage to the lungs which eventually leads to death.

Undiagnosed patent ductus arteriosus can result in pulmonary hypertension wherein the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen after birth and can turn fatal.

When your child tires easily after feeding or playing or isn’t gaining weight, check with your doctor immediately. Treatment options include medicines, catheter-based procedures, and surgery. Your child’s doctor may suggest immediate PDA closure because open conditions give place for heart infections that affect the lining of the heart and blood vessel.3,4

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a cardiovascular issue that is typically observed in the first few weeks or months after childbirth. It occurs when the normal fetal connection doesn’t happen in the normal manner between the pulmonary artery and aorta as it should after birth.

Soon after a baby is born, the ductus closes on its own to prevent the mixing of oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood however when this doesn’t occur the baby will have patent ductus arteriosus. Patent ductus arteriosus is most commonly observed in premature infants and babies with congenital heart conditions.


  1. “Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by Gina Baffa, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Aug. 2017, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/patent-ductus-arteriosus.html
  2. “Default – Stanford Children’s Health.” Stanford Children’s Health – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=patent-ductus-arteriosus-pda-90-P01811
  3. “Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Jan. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/patent-ductus-arteriosus/symptoms-causes/syc-20376145
  4. “Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA).” The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, 17 Oct. 2014, www.secondscount.org/pediatric-center/pediatric-detail?cid=745a5a72-dcb0-41e4-87d9-5975a5f44f0b

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 8, 2021

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