Key Points about Coarctation of the Aorta 

  • Coarctation of the aorta occurs when the aorta (major blood vessel) is narrowed.
  • This condition typically occurs alongside other heart defects.
  • Treatment for coarctation of the aorta can include medication management or surgical repair.
Common related conditions
Heart (Cardiovascular) Disease

Overview

Your aorta is the main blood vessel in your body, and it moves blood out of your heart and into the rest of your body. In people with coarctation of the aorta, the aorta is narrowed, which forces your heart to work harder. Coarctation of the aorta most often occurs alongside other heart defects or genetic conditions such as Turner’s syndrome, and it is more common in males than in females.

Coarctation of the aorta causes

In most cases, this condition is congenital or present at birth, and the cause is unknown. In fewer cases, coarctation of the aorta can develop later in life due to:

  • Severe atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Takayasu’s arteritis (inflamed arteries)
  • Traumatic injury

Coarctation of the aorta risk factors

This condition most often occurs in conjunction with other heart defects. Having one of the following heart defects can increase your risk of also having coarctation of the aorta:

  • Bicuspid aortic valve
  • Holes in the wall between the right and left sides of the heart
  • Mitral valve stenosis
  • Patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA
  • Sub-aortic stenosis

Coarctation of the aorta symptoms

Babies with coarctation of the aorta may experience the following signs or symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Irritability
  • Pale skin
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble feeding

Children or adults with coarctation of the aorta may experience the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Cold feet
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Leg cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nosebleeds

Coarctation of the aorta diagnosis

Your cardiologist will use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:

  • Complete physical exam. Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical exam, including asking about your personal and family health history.
  • Imaging tests. Your cardiologist may order imaging tests – such as a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG), cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan or echocardiogram – to obtain detailed images of your heart and valves.

Coarctation of the aorta treatment

Treatment for coarctation of the aorta may include:

  • Medication management. Your cardiologist may prescribe one or more medications to help control symptoms related to coarctation of the aorta, such as high blood pressure.
  • Surgical repair. During this procedure, your cardiothoracic surgeon will open up the narrowed area of the aorta. Your surgeon will discuss which specific surgical procedure is best for you and your situation. Surgical repair options include subclavian flap aortoplasty, bypass graft repair or patch aortoplasty.

When to seek care

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.