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by Scholten A
(Coarctation of the Aorta—Adult)

Definition

Aortic coarctation is when the aorta is narrow. The aorta is the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body. When the aorta is narrow, it can slow or block blood flow. This can put a strain on the heart or blood vessels. It can lead to future problems. This condition often occurs with other heart defects. It may be mild or severe.

Heart and Main Vessels
BP00015 96472 1 aorta.jpg
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Causes

Aortic coarctation is a congenital heart defect. This means a baby is born with it. The aorta does not develop properly when the baby is inside the mother.

Risk Factors

Aortic coarctation is more common in males. Other things that raise the risk are:

Symptoms

Aortic coarctation may or may not have symptoms. When present, symptoms may include:

  • Cold legs and feet
  • Problems breathing, especially with exercise
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Leg cramps after exercise
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chest pain

Diagnosis

This condition is often diagnosed after the baby is born. If symptoms are mild, it may not be diagnosed until later.

The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will check the heart, pulse, and blood pressure. Infants and children may need to see a heart doctor.

Tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment depends on how severe the condition is. Newborn babies with symptoms need supportive care. Some may need surgery or a procedure right away.

Treatment for aortic coarctation may include:

  • Medicines to help the heart and blood vessels work better
  • Surgery to remove the narrow section—then reconnect the good ends of the aorta
  • Balloon angioplasty—a balloon and stents are placed in the aorta to open it

Ongoing follow up will be needed with a heart doctor.

Balloon Angioplasty
Nucleus Image
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Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent aortic coarctation.

RESOURCES

American Heart Association  http://www.heart.org 

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute  https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada  http://www.heartandstroke.ca 

University of Ottawa Heart Institute  https://www.ottawaheart.ca 

References

Coarctation of aorta. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/coarctation-of-aorta. Accessed July 16, 2021.

Coarctation of the aorta. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/coa.html. Accessed July 16, 2021.

Coarctation of the aorta (CoA). American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/congenital-heart-defects/about-congenital-heart-defects/coarctation-of-the-aorta-coa#.WpgysGrwZQI. Accessed July 16, 2021.

Congenital heart defects. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/congenital-heart-defects. Accessed July 16, 2021.

Kim YY, Andrade L, et al. Aortic Coarctation. Cardiol Clin. 2020;38(3):337-351.

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