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Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Patent Ductus Arteriosus or PDA is a congenital heart defect that occurs in newborn infants within the first 24 hours of life. Although the Ductus Arteriosus is a normal fetal structure that allows blood to bypass the heart and travel directly to the lungs in the fetus, if it does not close shortly after birth, some physicians believe that this condition can promulgate long-term medical problems for the individual. On the other hand, there are those experts that seem to believe that other mitigating factors—such as the age of the patient when diagnosed and the presence of other respiratory aliments—determine whether medical or surgical intervention should be undertaken directly after birth . Patent Ductus ArteriosusGiven the myriad of complications that can arise as a result of PDA, it seems feasible that all recorded cases should be treated as soon after diagnosis as possible. This serves to improve risks for long-term medical complications and improve the infants overall quality of life.

In order to assess the validity of the above claim, it is necessary to first consider the condition and how it is diagnosed. Patent Ductus Arteriosus results when the Ductus Arteriosus—the duct that provides a shunting flow from the right ventricle to the left pulmonary artery, just above the left subclavian artery. Because oxygen for the fetus is transferred from the mother to the fetus via the placenta, the heart utilizes the Ductus Arteriosus as a means to circumvent the flow of blood through the heart and pass it directly to the lungs. Upon birth, when the fetus is exposed to massive amounts of oxygen the Ductus Arteriosus typically closes as a result of this exposure. When this does not occur within 24 hours, the infant is diagnosed with Patent Ductus Arteriosus .

Although PDA can be diagnosed with a simple echocardiogram of the heart there are often other symptoms that manifest before a physician will order and ECG. These symptoms may include: the use of more oxygen to facilitate breathing when less should be needed; uneven breathing patterns in the newborn coupled with more apnea; the presence of a murmur upon examination; and/or increases in the newborn’s heart rate or pulse. If PDA is suspected, an echocardiogram of the Ductus Arteriosus will be able to show physicians how blood is flowing through the duct and whether or not there is any indication that the Ductus Arteriosus is closing.

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