Coarctation of the aorta

Coarctation of the aorta is a common heart defect present at birth.

With this defect, a portion of the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body (aorta) is abnormally narrowed or pinched. Coarctation of the aorta reduces blood flow to the body, requiring the heart to pump harder to meet the body's demands, which over time can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, or other complications.

The most obvious symptoms of coarctation of the aorta are signs of heart failure—such as difficulty breathing, poor weight gain, sweating, and being sleepy and fussy most of the time—and decreased pulses in the legs. This condition is usually detected in newborns during normal blood pressure checks and by listening to the heart. Further tests, such as echocardiography, may be done to confirm the diagnosis.

Coarctation of the aorta requires repair by surgery or heart catheterization. If the condition is not repaired, a person with coarctation of the aorta may not live past the age of 40 or 50.

Last Updated: October 12, 2009

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Larry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology

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