A small patent ductus arteriosus might not cause complications. Larger, untreated defects could cause:

  • High blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Too much blood circulating through the heart's main arteries through a patent ductus arteriosus can lead to pulmonary hypertension, which can cause permanent lung damage. A large patent ductus arteriosus can lead to Eisenmenger syndrome, an irreversible type of pulmonary hypertension.
  • Heart failure. A patent ductus arteriosus can eventually cause the heart to enlarge and weaken, leading to heart failure, a chronic condition in which the heart can't pump effectively.
  • Heart infection (endocarditis). People who have structural heart problems, such as a patent ductus arteriosus, are at a higher risk of an inflammation of the heart's inner lining (infectious endocarditis) than are people who have healthy hearts.

Patent ductus arteriosus and pregnancy

Most women who have a small patent ductus arteriosus can tolerate pregnancy without problems. However, having a larger defect or complications — such as heart failure, arrhythmias or pulmonary hypertension — can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy. If you have Eisenmenger syndrome, pregnancy can be life-threatening.

If you have a heart defect, repaired or not, discuss family planning with your doctor. In some cases, preconception consultations with doctors who specialize in cardiology, genetics and high-risk obstetric care are needed. Some heart medications can cause serious problems for a developing baby, and it might be necessary to stop or adjust the medications before you become pregnant.

Dec. 16, 2014