Patent Ductus Arteriosus – PDA

As you already know about the large blood vessels – the aorta and pulmonary artery – it’s easy to learn about the birth defect called Patent Ductus Arteriosus (or PDA).

What is a Patent Ductus Arteriosus?

As a child develops inside its mother’s womb, it is not able to “breathe”. So, even though the child’s lungs are well developed, they do not carry out their normal work.

The blood which flows through the right ventricle and pulmonary artery to the lungs has no function. It is “wasted” blood flow.

In an attempt to make use of this flow, nature provides man with a “shunt” or “bypass”. A small tube, or blood vessel, connects the pulmonary artery to the large artery called the aorta. This tube is the ductus arteriosus.

Through this tube, blood which enters the pulmonary artery, instead of going to the lungs, flows into the aorta. From the aorta, the blood reaches other parts of the body. It is now useful to these other parts, which get energy to do their work.

At birth, when the child draws its first breath, the lungs begin to work. Now, when blood flows into the lungs, it is mixed with oxygen and “purified”. At this time, the ductus arteriosus normally closes. At first, it closes by spasm or contraction of the muscle in its wall. Later, the tube becomes permanently blocked by a scar.

Sometimes, it does not close normally. It then remains open, and the condition is called Patent Ductus Arteriosus – or PDA.

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Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome – HLHS

The “Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome” – or more conveniently, “HLHS” – is a unique defect of the heart in many ways. Until a decade ago, the diagnosis was a virtual death sentence. Today, the revolution in cardiac surgical thinking and technique has changed the situation radically.

Whereas survival beyond the first few months of life was previously unheard of, many centers are today reporting encouraging results. And it is bound to improve further as more knowledge is gained from the early experience.

What is the HLHS ?

The heart has two upper and two lower chambers – one of each is right sided and the other left sided. The left sided chambers, with their blood vessels and valves are sometimes referred to as the LEFT HEART. ( This does not mean that the person has TWO hearts! )

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Double Outlet Right Ventricle – DORV

What is Double Outlet Right Ventricle (DORV) ?

Some of the defects I have described are “simple”, some are a little “complex” – but DORV is something else.

It is a common term that actually describes a wide spectrum of heart disease, ranging from something similar to a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), through Tetralogy of Fallot (ToF) to Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA).

It is sometimes like one, at other times like another, and occasionally a mixture of some of them. So if at first you are baffled, don’t worry. I too was, and figured it out only after a long hard struggle.

What is Double Outlet Right Ventricle ?

Normally, a ventricle has just ONE outlet. For the left ventricle, this is the aorta. For the right ventricle it is the pulmonary artery. In DORV, both of these “outlet” blood vessels – aorta and pulmonary artery – arise from the RIGHT VENTRICLE, either totally or to a great extent.

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Ventricular Septal Defect – VSD

What is a Ventricular Septal Defect?

Ventricular septal defects – also called VSD – are similar to ASD.

A VSD is a “hole” in the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart – the ventricles.

VSD may be small, medium-sized or large, and may be single or multiple. It may occur in different parts of the ventricular septum, and may sometimes be found along with other heart defects.

What happens when there is a VSD ?

The wall between ventricles is meant to separate blood passing through each. This is to prevent mixing of “impure” blood from the veins with “pure” blood going to the arteries. When the wall is “broken”, mixing occurs.

However, only “pure” blood flows from the left ventricle into the right; no flow is seen from the right ventricle into the left side across the VSD and so “impure” venous blood does not reach the arteries. This is because pressure in the left ventricle is much higher than the right, and fluids always flow from places of high to lower pressure.

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Atrial Septal Defect – ASD

What is an Atrial Septal Defect ?

The two upper chambers of the heart are called the right and left atrium. They are separated by a “wall”, called the ATRIAL SEPTUM. Sometimes, this “wall” is not complete. There is a hole in it.

This hole is called an Atrial Septal Defect – or ASD, in short. ASD’s may be large or small, single or multiple. The heart may be otherwise normal, or there may be other defects too.

What happens when there is an ASD ?

In the normal heart, blood flowing in the right sided chambers (atrium and ventricle) is completely separated from the left sided chambers by the atrial septum. When there is a hole in this “wall”, blood from the left atrium flows through the hole into the right side.

You might well ask, “Why only from left to right ?”

That’s because the pressure of blood in the left atrium is higher than in the right, and as you know, any fluid, including blood, will flow from a place with high pressure to one with a lower pressure.

So what is the effect of this ?

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