Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Coarctation of the Aorta


What is Coarctation of the Aorta?
A coarctation of the aorta is simply a narrowing of the vessel. The severity of the defect can range from mild to severe.  Symptoms develop because the upper parts of the body have too much blood flow and the lower parts do not have enough. In mild cases, the defect can go undetected until problems with fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, and cool arms and legs arise.  In severe cases, a newborn will exhibit acute decompensation once the patent ductus arteriosus closes in the first 2-5 days of life.

How do we diagnose Coarctation of the Aorta?
There are a variety of tests your physician may find helpful in assessing if your child has this defect.  A physical exam, chest x-ray, angiography, and echocardiogram can help determine whether or not your child has this defect.

How do we treat Coarctation of the Aorta?
Coarctation of the aorta can be treated in a variety of ways depending upon the severity of the defect. Some milder cases can have their defects repaired through a cardiac catheterization procedure.  A balloon can be inserted into the defect and inflated to stretch the aorta open or a stent can be inserted into the defect to keep the vessel open. 

More severe cases may require a surgical repair.  The following techniques can be utilized:

  • An incision into the narrow spot can be made in an effort to widen it and then seal it with a patch.
  • Dependent upon the length of the narrowing, the defect can be cut above and below and that section removed.  The remaining ends will then be sewn together.
  • The surgeon may decide to use a tube to connect the aorta above and below the narrow portion.

Last Edited: December 18, 2012
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