Coarctation of the Aorta

This congenital heart condition results from a narrowing of the aorta, which carries blood from the heart to the body. It affects more males than females.

Narrowing

Most commonly, the narrowed section is located just beyond the point where the arteries that supply blood to the head and arms branch off from the aorta. The obstruction restricts blood flow to the lower body. This type of coarctation typically results in higher blood pressure in the upper body, and lower blood pressure in the lower body.

Symptoms in Newborns

Newborns may not experience symptoms until days or weeks after birth. But if the obstruction is severe, newborns may have problems with poor blood flow to the lower half of the body within hours. A physical exam may show higher blood pressure in the arms than in the legs, weak or no pulse in the groin, and cold legs and feet. Symptoms may also include poor feeding and lethargy.

Symptoms in Older Children

Some cases aren’t diagnosed until a child is older. During a physical exam, the patient may have higher blood pressure in the upper body and a weak pulse in the groin. Symptoms also may include headaches, nosebleeds, and dizziness.

Treatment

Severe cases require immediate treatment. A common treatment option is aortic coarctation repair surgery, which is used to remove the obstruction in the aorta. In some older children, a balloon angioplasty may be performed to dilate the narrowed area.