Slide show: Common types of congenital heart defects
Image of heart with patent ductus arteriosus
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Before birth, a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus connects the pulmonary artery — the artery carrying blood to your lungs — and the aorta, the large artery that carries blood away from the heart. Before a baby is born, the ductus arteriosus allows blood to bypass the lungs because the baby receives oxygen through the placenta and umbilical cord. The ductus arteriosus normally closes within soon after birth. If the ductus arteriosus remains open (patent), some blood that should flow through the body goes to the lungs.

This defect can cause heart failure or an infection of the heart (endocarditis). In infants, it can be closed with medications. In older children and adults, surgery is performed to close the vessel.

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