Coarctation Of The Aorta

What is coarctation of the aorta?

Coarctation of the aorta is when the aorta is too narrow. The aorta is the large blood vessel that takes blood away from the heart and out to the body. The narrowed part of the aorta slows blood flow. This makes the heart pump harder than usual to push blood and oxygen to the body.


What causes coarctation?

There is no known cause of coarctation. Some children are born with it. It is often found when a baby is less than 1 year old.

What are the signs and symptoms of coarctation?

Your child may not have symptoms until later in childhood, or as an adult.

  • Feeling tired, dizzy, or faint

  • Nosebleeds or pounding headaches

  • Problems eating, poor weight gain, and slow growth

  • Cramps in the legs

  • Faint pulses or no pulses in the groin

  • Cold legs and feet

  • Fast breathing, shortness of breath, or swollen feet or legs

How is coarctation diagnosed?

  • A chest x-ray is used to check for a narrow aorta. Caregivers also use the x-ray to check for a heart that is larger than usual from pumping too hard.

  • An echocardiogram (echo) uses sound waves to show pictures of the size and shape of your child's heart. It also shows how his heart moves when it beats. The echo may show the coarctation and how severe it is.

  • An EKG records the electrical activity of your child's heart. It is used to check for damage or enlargement in different areas of your child's heart.

  • An MRI or CT scan may be used to see the narrow aorta. The images may show if blood vessels have grown to take over the work of the aorta. Your child may be given contrast dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if your child has any metal in or on his body.

  • A cardiac catheterization is used to see how well the blood vessels connected to your child's heart are working. Caregivers may also measure the pressure inside your child's heart. A tube is threaded into your child's heart through a blood vessel in his arm, leg, or neck. Your child may be given contrast dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is coarctation treated?

  • Heart medicines can help decrease how hard your child's heart works. This can improve his symptoms.

  • Balloon angioplasty is a procedure to open the coarctation. If this procedure works, your child may not need surgery. Caregivers put a catheter into an artery, usually in your child's groin. The catheter is moved up into the coarctation. A tiny balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated and deflated repeatedly until the coarctation is opened.

  • Surgery may be needed to repair coarctation of the aorta. During surgery, the narrowed part of the aorta is removed. The 2 ends of the aorta are sewn together, or a graft may be used to attach the ends. Surgery is usually done before your child turns 2 years old.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child has chills, a cough, or feels weak and achy.

  • Your child's symptoms return or get worse.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You cannot feel a pulse in one of your child's wrists, feet, or groin.

  • Your child has sudden trouble breathing.

  • Your child is too dizzy to stand.

  • Your child has severe pain in his chest or abdomen.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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