The aorta is the main artery in the heart. It carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. Aortic coarctation is the narrowing of the aorta. This slows or blocks blood flow. It is often associated with other heart and vascular conditions. Examples include abnormal heart valves or aneurysms, which can lead to further health problems.
Anatomy of the Heart
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Aortic coarctation is a congenital heart defect. This means that it is present at birth. It occurs because of a problem with the way the aorta develops while the fetus is growing in the uterus.
Aortic coarctation is more common in boys. Other factors that increase your child's risk of aortic coarctation include:
Genetic disorders, such as Turner syndromeOther heart defects
If your child’s condition is severe, symptoms of impaired blood flow will be present at birth. If aortic coarctation is not treated, it can lead to
If this condition is not detected when your child is a baby, there may be other symptoms during childhood, such as: Heart murmurHigh blood pressure
in the arms
A weak pulse in the legsCold legs and feetShortness of breath, especially with exerciseLegs that are underdeveloped, but better developed armsHeadachesLightheadednessFatigueChest pain
Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment depends on your child's age and how severe the condition is.
Your newborn will need treatment right away. Medications can be used to help blood flow to all parts of the body and improve contraction of the heart. One of the most common surgeries involves removing the narrow section of the aorta and reconnecting the 2 healthier ends.
Your child may need to take other medications to reduce fluid retention. Depending on your child’s condition, the doctor may also recommend surgery. Some of the options include: Resection of the narrowed area in the aorta (the same type of surgery used in infants)Subclavian flap aortoplasty—involves using a patch or part of the artery to make the area largerBalloon angioplasty
—involves using a balloon to widen the narrowed area
It is important to note that there will always be a risk, even into adulthood, of the development of other cardiovascular conditions.
There are no current guidelines to prevent aortic coarctation.
Coarctation of the aorta. Cincinnati Children’s website. Available at:
http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/health/c/coarctation. Updated December 2013. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Repair of coarctation of the aorta. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin website. Available at:
http://www.chw.org/medical-care/herma-heart-center/for-medical-professionals/pediatric-heart-surgery/coarctation-of-the-aorta. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Rothman A, Galindo A, Evans W, Collazos J, Restrepo H. Effectiveness and safety of balloon dilation of native aortic coarctation in premature and neonates weighing < or = 2,500 grams.
Am J of Cardiology. 2010;105(8):1176-1180.
Vijayalakshmi K, Griffiths A, Hasan A, O'Sullivan J. Late hazards after repair of coarctation of the aorta.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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