Coarctation of the Aorta

Coarctation of the aorta is a congenital disorder and may be fatal in the first few months of life.

Coarctation of the aorta is a congenital disorder in which the aorta, the largest vessel in the body, has a constriction. This can lead to hypertension because there is less distal blood flow, especially through the kidneys.

It’s found twice as often in male children and may be fatal in the first few months of life. Depending on the severity of the constriction, coarctation of the aorta may not be detected until adulthood.

Coarctation of the Aorta Symptoms

Symptoms depend on how much blood is able to flow through the arteries. Signs include:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Leg fatigue or cramps
  • Nosebleeds
  • Pain with exertion that is relieved by rest
  • Pounding headache
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosis of Coarctation of the Aorta

Your UT Southwestern Medical Center doctor will use several tests to determine the problem. 

Common diagnostic tests for coarctation of the aorta include:

Cardiac catheterization
Direct visualization of flow restriction at site
Chest X-ray
“Rib-notching” in children, enlarged heart
Echocardiography
A noninvasive procedure that shows degree of flow obstruction at site by bouncing sound waves from the chest off the heart, creating a moving picture
Electrocardiogram
A test of the heart’s electrical signals that shows left ventricle hypertrophy
Physical exam
Used to detect higher blood pressure and pulse in arms than in legs; upper body well-developed, with lower body underdeveloped; midsystolic murmur

Coarctation of the Aorta Treatment Options

Surgery is needed for all patients, but it can be delayed if there are no symptoms. 

Surgical treatments for coarctation of the aorta include:

Percutaneous balloon aortoplasty
Opening the narrowed part of the aorta with a balloon catheter inserted into the aorta
Prosthetic patch graft
Cutting across the constricted area and attaching a synthetic patch to widen the artery
Resection of site of coarctation and rejoin aorta (end-to-end anastomosis)
Removing the narrow portion of the aorta and reconnecting the ends
Subclavian flap procedure
Using part of the left subclavian artery, which carries blood to the left arm, to expand the artery

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a heart specialist at UT Southwestern's facilities in Dallas or for more information about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.