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Aortic Coarctation
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Aortic Coarctation

(Coarctation of the aorta)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

The aorta is the main artery carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. Aortic coarctation is the narrowing of the aorta which slows or blocks the blood flow.

Heart and Main Vessels

BP00015_96472_1_aorta.jpg

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Causes

Aortic coarctation is a congenital heart defect, which means it is present at birth. It occurs because of a problem with the development of the aorta while the fetus is developing in the womb.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chances of having aortic coarctation. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

Symptoms

Aortic coarctation may or may not have symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is because of aortic coarctation. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

  • High blood pressure , particularly at a young age
  • Cold legs and feet
  • Shortness of breath, especially with exercise
  • Dizziness
  • Leg cramps after exercise
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nosebleeds
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:

  • Chest x-ray—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the chest
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the heart
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan of the heart—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the heart
  • Echocardiogram—a test that uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the size, shape, and motion of the heart
  • Cardiac catheterization—a tube-like instrument inserted into the heart through a vein or artery (usually in the arm or leg) to detect problems with the heart and its blood supply

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Surgery

The narrow section of the aorta can be removed surgically, and the two “good” ends reconnected.

Balloon Angioplasty

A tiny catheter tube is inserted into a blood vessel in the leg and threaded up to the aorta, where a balloon is inflated to expand the narrow area. A stent may be placed to keep the area open.

Balloon Angioplasty

Nucleus Image

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Prevention

Since aortic coarctation is a congenital defect, it cannot be prevented.

RESOURCES:

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

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
http://ww2.heartandstroke.ca/

University of Ottawa Heart Institute
http://www.ottawaheart.ca/UOHI/Welcome.do

References:

Coarctation of the aorta. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=11069 . Accessed November 29, 2006.

Coarctation of aorta. DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed102.epnet.com/Detail.aspx?id=115836 . Accessed November 27, 2006.

Coarctation of the aorta. Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/heart/coa.html . Accessed November 27, 2006.

Congenital heart defects. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/chd/chd_what.html . Accessed November 27, 2006.



Last reviewed February 2008 by Michael J. Fucci, DO

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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