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The ductus arteriosus (DA) is a blood vessel in the heart that connects the aorta (which provides blood to the rest of the body) to the pulmonary artery (which sends blood to the lung). It allows blood to bypass the lungs while a baby is still in the womb.
The ductus arteriosus usually closes shortly after birth, which allows for normal blood circulation. But in patent ductus arteriosus, it remains open, or patent. Then blood flows through the ductus arteriosus and floods the vessels in the lungs, causing respiratory problems. PDA is most common in premature babies.
Those breathing problems are one clue that a baby has PDA. A heart murmur also may lead doctors to suspect the condition, which is then confirmed with an ultrasound of the heart.
Many times doctors just monitor the condition. If it appears that the patent ductus is causing problems, sometimes doctors can close the ductus arteriosus by administering medicine. But if that doesn't work, or if the baby is too sick to take the medicine, the infant will need surgery to close it.
Although recovery time varies from child to child, many babies bounce back from PDA treatment in several days.