Patent ductus arteriosus: patho-physiology, hemodynamic effects and clinical complications

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2011 Oct:24 Suppl 1:15-6. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2011.607564. Epub 2011 Sep 6.


During fetal life, patent arterial duct diverts placental oxygenated blood from the pulmonary artery into the aorta by-passing lungs. After birth, decrease of prostacyclins and prostaglandins concentration usually causes arterial duct closure. This process may be delayed, or may even completely fail in preterm infants with arterial duct still remaining patent. If that happens, blood flow by-pass of the systemic circulation through the arterial duct results in pulmonary overflow and systemic hypoperfusion. When pulmonary flow is 50% higher than systemic flow, a hemodynamic "paradox" results, with an increase of left ventricular output without a subsequent increase of systemic output. Cardiac overload support neuro-humoral effects (activation of sympathetic nervous system and renin-angiotensin system) that finally promote heart failure. Moreover, increased pulmonary blood flow can cause vascular congestion and pulmonary edema. However, the most dangerous effect is cerebral under-perfusion due to diastolic reverse-flow and resulting in cerebral hypoxia. At last, blood flow decreases through the abdominal aorta, reducing perfusion of liver, gut and kidneys and may cause hepatic failure, renal insufficiency and necrotizing enterocolitis. Conclusions Large patent arterial duct may cause life-threatening multi-organ effects. In pre-term infant early diagnosis and timely effective treatment are cornerstones in the prevention of cerebral damage and long-term multi-organ failure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Ductus Arteriosus, Patent / complications*
  • Ductus Arteriosus, Patent / etiology*
  • Ductus Arteriosus, Patent / physiopathology*
  • Hemodynamics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Splanchnic Circulation / physiology
  • Viscera / blood supply
  • Viscera / physiology


  • Neurotransmitter Agents