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Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) & Repair/ Closure

PDA is a heart problem that is frequently noted in the first few weeks or months after birth. It is characterized by the persistence of a normal fetal connection between the aorta and the pulmonary artery which allows oxygen-rich (red) blood that should go to the body to recirculate through the lungs.

All babies are born with this connection between the aorta and the pulmonary artery. While your baby was developing in the uterus, it was not necessary for blood to circulate through the lungs because oxygen was provided through the placenta. During pregnancy, a connection was necessary to allow oxygen-rich (red) blood to bypass your baby's lungs and proceed into the body. This normal connection that all babies have is called a ductus arteriosus.

At birth, the placenta is removed when the umbilical cord is cut. Your baby's lungs must now provide oxygen to his or her body. As your baby takes the first breath, the blood vessels in the lungs open up, and blood begins to flow through them to pick up oxygen. At this point, the ductus arteriosus is not needed to bypass the lungs. Under normal circumstances, within the first few days after birth, the ductus arteriosus closes and blood no longer passes through it.

In some babies, however, the ductus arteriosus remains open (patent) and the condition now becomes known as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). The opening between the aorta and the pulmonary artery allows oxygen-rich (red) blood to recirculate into the lungs. Patent ductus arteriosus occurs twice as often in girls as in boys.

PDA repair or closure.

The majority of children and some infants with PDA are candidates for repair in the cardiac cath lab. The goal is to repair the PDA before the lungs become diseased from too much blood flow and pressure and to restore an efficient pattern of blood flow. Surgical repair is also indicated if one of the previously mentioned conservative treatments have not been successful.

Repair is usually indicated in infants younger than 6 months of age who have large defects that are causing symptoms, such as poor weight gain and rapid breathing. For infants who do not exhibit symptoms, the repair may often be delayed until after 6 to 12 months of age. Your child's cardiologist will recommend when the repair should be performed. Transcatheter coil closure of the PDA is frequently performed first if possible because it is minimally invasive. Children need to be at least 5 kg to be considered for transcatheter closure. Thus, premature infants, because of their small size, are not candidates for this procedure, and require surgical closure of the PDA. Your child's PDA may be repaired surgically in the operating room.

The surgical repair, also called PDA ligation, is performed under general anaesthesia. The procedure involves closing the open PDA with stitches or clips in order to prevent the surplus blood from entering your child's lungs.