A growing number of scientific studies have linked the use of certain antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft during pregnancy to a higher risk of congenital heart defects like patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). This potentially life-threatening defect involves abnormal blood flow between the two major arteries connected to the heart. At Schmidt & Clark, LLP, we are investigating the link between SSRI antidepressants and patent ductus arteriosus birth defects.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) Suit Review:If you or somebody you know gave birth to a child with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) after being exposed to an antidepressant in the womb, you should contact our lawyers immediately. Consultations are always free. Please use our confidential email contact form or call toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

Which antidepressants have been linked to PDA?

The following antidepressants have been linked to an elevated risk for patent ductus arteriosus and other serious birth defects:

  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Symbyax (fluoxetine and olanzapine)
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)

What is Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)?

PDA is a rare but extremely serious congenital birth defect in which there is a persistent opening between the two major blood vessels leading to the heart. The ductus arteriosus is a fetal blood vessel that normally closes soon after birth. In PDA, however, the vessel does not close and instead remains ‘patent,’ resulting in irregular transmission of blood between the aorta and pulmonary artery. The defect is common in premature babies, as well as in those with persistent pulmonary problems such as hypoxia.

A PDA allows a certain amount of the oxygenated blood from the left side of the heart to flow back to the lungs from the aorta to the pulmonary artery. If the hole is substantial, the infant becomes short of breath due to the increased pressure on the lungs caused by the extra blood flow. This uses more calories than normal, and often interferes with the baby’s ability to feed. If left untreated, a PDA can cause too much blood to flow through the heart, weakening the heart muscle and causing heart failure and other potentially life-threatening complications.

Symptoms of PDA

A small PDA often causes few if any easily identifiable symptoms at first. However, if the defect grows larger (as it often tends to do), the child may have trouble gaining weight and exhibit a number of telltale signs and symptoms including:

  • Poor eating, poor growth
  • Sweating with crying or play
  • Persistent fast breathing or breathlessness
  • Easy tiring
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Frequent lung infections
  • A bluish or dusky skin tone

Affected individuals will often present these symptoms extremely differently. Although commonly diagnosed in infancy, the discovery of PDA may be delayed until late childhood or even adulthood. When the defect is isolated, signs and symptoms are consistent with left-to-right shunting. The shunt volume is determined by the size of the open communication and the pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR).

PDA may also be accompanied by any number of other congenital heart defects, which must be taken into consideration at the time of diagnosis. In many cases, the diagnosis and treatment of a PDA is critical for infants with severe heart lesions.

Endocarditis

While babies born with small PDAs may not face the risk of congestive heart failure, even patients with tiny PDAs are at risk of developing endocarditis. This is a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by a severe infection of the heart, its valves, or its blood vessels. Endocarditis can result in cardiac dysfunction, stroke, and even death.

Endocarditis occurs when germs in the baby’s bloodstream stick to the heart, multiply, and establish a local infection. In a normal heart, the valves and vessels are protected from endocarditis by a smooth inner lining which keeps the blood cells and and germs from attaching. However, PDA causes blood flow to be rough and turbulent due to jets of blood squirting through the defect under high pressure. This helps the germs stick to the walls of the vessels. As long as patent ductus arteriosus is present, the patient remains at risk for endocarditis.

Treatment for Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Treatment plans for individuals affected by PDA will vary depending on the patient’s age, medical history, and size of the defect. Popular treatment options include:

  • PDA ligation – During this surgical procedure, an incision is made on the left side of the child’s chest. The PDA is then closed by tying or clipping it, which stops the blood flow across the ductus arteriosus.
  • Transcatheter procedure (cardiac catheterization) – A long thin tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in the child’s groin and guided to the heart using X-ray imagining. A small plug or coil is then placed through the catheter to plug the hole. This is the most common method of treatment for PDA.
  • Medications – The doctor may prescribe certain drugs to tighten (constrict) the muscle in the wall of the PDA, which may close the opening. Additionally, the child’s doctor may prescribe other medications to strengthen the heart muscle and rid the body of excess fluids.

Antidepressants & Pregnancy

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and taking an antidepressant medication, you should talk to your doctor about your options. Antidepressants have been shown in numerous cases to pose a serious risk to an unborn baby if taken by expecting mothers during pregnancy. However, do not stop taking antidepressants without talking to your doctor first – only your doctor can determine what is right for you and your baby.

Is there a time limit in filing a patent ductus arteriosus lawsuit?

Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their patent ductus arteriosus lawyer, it is important that you understand that time is of the essence. The applicable statute of limitations in your state may time bar your claim. Furthermore, we are unable to provide you with legal advice without first evaluating your potential case. Accordingly, please take the time now to contact us by using the confidential email contact form below or by calling us toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

We hope we will be able to assist you with your potential PDA birth defects lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.


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