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Channel between the pulmonary artery and the aorta in the fetus, which bypasses the lungs to distribute oxygen received through the placenta from the mother's blood. It normally closes once the baby is born and the lungs inflate, separating the pulmonary and systemic circulations. Closure before birth causes circulatory problems. If the ductus stays open after birth (patent ductus arteriosus, more common in premature births), oxygenated and deoxygenated blood mix. Alone, this may not be serious; in some heart malformations it is even necessary for life.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on ductus arteriosus, visit Britannica.com.