When you’re preparing to deliver a HLHS baby, there’s a really good chance you’re going to hear a cardiologist mention the ductus arteriosus, or just ductus for short. When babies are in the womb, their oxygen is provided by the mother’s lungs and placenta. So to save energy, blood doesn’t need to be pumped to the lungs, so the ductus arteriosus allows the blood to bypass the lungs and get out to the rest of their little bodies. Again, this is present in ALL babies. When your little one is born, though, they need to use their lungs, so this ductus typically closes within the first few hours of life. For a fully healthy baby, that’s normal and no big deal. For an HLHS warrior, though, this is pretty important to monitor. In HLHS babies, the right ventricle has to do double the work, of pumping blood to the lungs AND out to the body. An open ductus allows it to pump blood to the body, but once that closes up it really diminishes the amount of blood flow to the body, which is very dangerous.
But before you freak out, this is something cardiology looks out for…or at least, they should. And if they don’t mention it, ASK. Anyways, if the ductus does look like it’s closing up, they can use medicine called prostaglandins to keep that ductus open until they’re ready for the Norwood Procedure.