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Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a congenital heart defect that results from an abnormal connection between the aorta and the pulmonary artery in the heart.

While in the womb, the aorta and the pulmonary artery are connected by a temporary blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus as part of normal fetal circulation. The baby receives oxygen from the mother’s circulation, so blood does not need to flow through the lungs. The ductus arteriosus streamlines fetal circulation by flowing blood directly to the aorta, bypassing the lungs. After birth, the ductus arteriosus usually seals off. In patients with PDA, the ductus arteriosus stays open – or patent – and blood can flow from the aorta into the pulmonary artery.

Patent ductus arteriosus is common and affects about 3,000 newborns per year in the United States. Babies born prematurely are more likely to have PDA, and the condition occurs twice as often in girls as in boys.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of untreated PDA in an adult include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations

Adults with untreated PDA are at high risk for:

  • Bacterial endocarditis
  • An enlarged heart
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Death


An adult congenital heart specialist at Deborah Specialty Physicians may order the following tests:

  • An echocardiogram
  • An electrocardiogram
  • Oximetry