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Emergency: requires immediate attention
Patent ductus arteriosus
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed
Emergency: requires immediate attention

Patent ductus arteriosus

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Contributors: Amirah Khan MD, Mary Anne Morgan MD, Paritosh Prasad MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a congenital heart defect characterized by persistence of the ductus arteriosus, which typically constricts and obliterates after birth. Patency of the ductus is caused by low arterial oxygen and higher concentrations of prostaglandin E2 and nitrous oxide. PDA leads to left-to-right shunting of oxygenated blood from the aorta into the main pulmonary artery. PDA can occur alone or in conjunction with other congenital heart disease. The incidence of an isolated PDA is 2.9 per 10 000 live births with a 2:1 female predominance in full-term infants. The incidence is higher in premature infants, infants born at higher altitudes, and infants with congenital rubella. Isolated PDA is also associated with genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, cri-du-chat syndrome, Holt-Oram syndrome, and Noonan syndrome.

Signs and symptoms of PDA can present from infancy to adulthood and vary according to the size and length of the ductus. Preterm infants typically have severe presentations with pulmonary edema, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), pulmonary hemorrhage, heart failure, necrotizing enterocolitis, and intraventricular hemorrhage. They typically require ventilation and oxygenation while hospitalized prior to PDA closure. Full-term infants, children, and adults with a small PDA will be asymptomatic but may have a murmur. The murmur changes as the patient ages but is usually described as a continuous 3/6 murmur best heard at the left infraclavicular region. Patients with a moderately sized PDA can have exercise intolerance, difficulty feeding, and poor weight gain with failure to thrive. On examination, in addition to a murmur, they can have a wide systemic pulse pressure and evidence of left ventricular dysfunction. Large PDAs can present with cyanotic heart disease with clubbing and cyanosis worse in the lower extremities, wide pulse pressure, and precordial thrill.

The diagnosis is made based on clinical manifestations and confirmed with echocardiogram. Complications from PDAs include pulmonary hypertension, infective endocarditis, and heart failure.

For more information, see OMIM.


Q25.0 – Patent ductus arteriosus

83330001 – Patent ductus arteriosus

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

Murmurs of infancy:
  • Ventricular septal defect – Typically high frequency, short systolic murmur but can be holosystolic harsh murmur in larger defects; usually becomes louder after the first several hours of life, as pulmonary vascular resistance decreases.
  • Peripheral pulmonary stenosis – Quiet, midsystolic ejection murmur; usually resolves by 6-12 months.
  • Tricuspid regurgitation – Can be seen as part of tricuspid atresia, pulmonary atresia, and Ebstein anomaly. Murmur is holosystolic, "blowing."
  • Pulmonary stenosis – "Harsh" midsystolic ejection murmur loudest at right upper sternal border.
  • Aortic stenosis – Harsh midsystolic ejection murmur loudest at right upper sternal border, usually accompanied by systolic "click" and substernal systolic thrill.
  • Coarctation of aorta – Murmur usually heard posteriorly, between scapulae.
Murmurs in children >1 year:
  • Still's murmur – "Musical" systolic murmur without radiation.
  • Atrial septal defect – Subtle in children, often not detected until adulthood. Soft systolic murmur at the left upper sternal border, sometimes with diastolic murmur at lower left sternal border. Usually has fixed / split second heart sound (S2).
  • Mitral regurgitation – Holosystolic murmur that radiates to the apex. Associated with other illnesses or from anomalies in coronary vasculature or collagen vascular disease.
  • Bicuspid aortic valve – Most common congenital heart lesion. Early, holosystolic ejection click at the apex, sometimes with aortic stenosis / murmur and or aortic regurgitation.
  • Aortic stenosis – Most common cause of left ventricular outflow obstruction. Presents with a systolic ejection murmur along with dyspnea, exertional angina, and syncope.
  • Infectious endocarditis – Rare complication of PDA.

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Last Reviewed: 07/25/2018
Last Updated: 09/12/2018
Copyright © 2020 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.
Emergency: requires immediate attention
Patent ductus arteriosus
Print 1 Images
Patent ductus arteriosus : Fatigue, Cyanosis, Exertional dyspnea, Failure to thrive, Heart murmur, Wide pulse pressure, HR increased, RR increased, Poor feeding
Copyright © 2020 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.