What Happens To Untreated Patent Ductus Arteriosus & When To Go To Doctor For PDA?

A small patent ductus arteriosus do not show symptoms and usually do not require treatment, but larger PDA’s can lead to cardiovascular failures and other complications.1

Untreated PDA can let oxygen-rich blood from the aorta to mix with poorly oxygenated blood in the pulmonary artery.2

When your baby suffers shortness of breath, sweating, or getting more tired than normal you should immediately check with the doctor.3,4

What Happens To Untreated Patent Ductus Arteriosus?

Patent ductus arteriosus is a fetal blood vessel that attaches two main arteries that carry blood away from the heart. When a newborn breathes through its lungs the ductus is no longer required and closes 2 days after birth.

However, if the ductus doesn’t close it result in an increased flow of pure oxygenated red blood from the aorta flowing to the impure deoxygenated blood in the pulmonary artery. When there is too much blood flow it put a strain on the heart and elevates blood pressure.1

A small patent ductus arteriosus does not cause problems and never need treatment. However larger PDA’s when left untreated can cause heart failure and other complications. Complications of untreated patent ductus arteriosus include:

Bacterial Endocarditis – Infective endocarditis, an infection when bacteria enter your bloodstream, travel to your heart, and settle in the heart lining causing serious heart damage.

Late Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) – This is one of the primary reasons for heart failure in infants. Untreated PDA can cause the heart to enlarge and weaken leading to hypoxic lung disease and a high risk of heart failure. In animals, especially in dogs, congestive heart failure appears at the age of 1.

Pulmonary Vascular Obstructive Disease – It causes structural changes in the peripheral pulmonary arteries affecting not only just the airways instead of the entire lungs leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, idiopathic pulmonary artery disease, and a few others. Untreated patent ductus arteriosus can further result in the complications of other circulatory and ventilatory abnormalities as well.2

When To Go To Doctor For Patent Ductus Arteriosus?

The symptoms of patent ductus arteriosus are often dependent on the size of the ductus and how much blood is flowing through the arteries. Some infants show heart murmur and experience shortness of breath. In some cases, they may require ventilator support for breathing. When you notice abnormalities in your child’s breathing mode, you should seek immediate medical assistance.

Your child’s cardiologist may examine the condition based on the infant’s heartbeat using a stethoscope. They may request any one or more of the following tests:

Based on the diagnosis and the person’s age, treatment will vary. A small and uncomplicated patent ductus arteriosus needs watchful waiting for its closure. Premature infants may require non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease the process.3,4

Patent ductus arteriosus is a heart complication most commonly noticed in babies born prematurely but rare in babies born full-time. The ductus arteriosus is a fetal blood vessel that allows the blood to skip circulation in the lungs. Babies after birth begin breathing through its lungs therefore the ductus arteriosus begin to narrow and closes within a few days.

This is similar to a septal defect and allows blood to flow from one side of the circulation to the other. Especially when the ductus is large there is an extra flow of blood to the lungs instead of to the rest of the body causing heart failure and other heart complications.

References:

  1. “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.
  2. “What Are the Complications of Untreated Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)?” Latest Medical News, Clinical Trials, Guidelines – Today on Medscape, 23 Mar. 2020, www.medscape.com/answers/891096-69180/what-are-the-complications-of-untreated-patent-ductus-arteriosus-pda.
  3. “Learning About Severe Patent Ductus Arteriosus in Newborns.” MyHealth.Alberta.ca Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal, myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=abp8859.
  4. Gandhi, Dr. Anjum. “Patent Ductus Arteriosus. PDA Information; Treatment.” Patient.info, 13 June 2014, patient.info/doctor/patent-ductus-arteriosus.

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